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16 February 2011
There has been little news since the last PTCC Update because of the election and the time it has taken for the new General Assembly to be seated and organized. But now there are finally developments to report about the property tax elimination fight.
As I write this Update, a great many school districts statewide are struggling to balance their 2011-2012 budgets. Projected deficits range from a few hundred thousand dollars to almost $15 million and many districts are anticipating steep property tax increases this year. Much of this is due to the past unwillingness of the General Assembly to intervene with meaningful education finance reform aimed at eliminating the disparities in financing that define the system as it is today. Every year the situation worsens and school boards find themselves totally consumed by financial affairs.
And while this is happening people of all ages are losing their homes due to their inability to keep pace with ever-increasing school property taxes. Passage of legislation to totally eliminate the school property tax and restructure the education finance system can solve these problems and must be done now before the system totally collapses.
Because of these factors and others, property taxes will likely be a key issue in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this session. Here are some of the indicators:
- An influx of newly-elected Representatives, many of whom ran on the promise of elimination and are determined to honor that pledge.
- Representative Jim Cox of Berks County (Sam Rohrer's former chief of staff and author of a large portion of the original School Property Tax Elimination Act) has made the property tax problem his primary legislative initiative for this session and has formed a bipartisan property tax caucus in the House that currently has almost half of the 203 Representatives as members. He will be working with them to build consensus and to incorporate their ideas into the crafting of legislation that will permanently solve the problem. See the letter from Representative Cox below.
- The House GOP Policy Committee Chairman, Representative Dave Reed, has formed four policy subcommittees, one of which is charged with recommending House GOP property tax policy. This committee is co-chaired by Representative Cox and has many pro-elimination advocates as members. This is a terrific development that indicates that the GOP leadership is likely considering the property tax problem seriously. The subcommittee members are here.
Here is the letter from Representative Cox:
I write to you today to give you an update on my work inside the General Assembly to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania. As has always been the case, my goal continues to be the elimination of school property taxes.
In recent months, I formed the School Property Tax Relief Caucus to help garner support among members in the House of Representatives. For years, we have advanced a plan that would eliminate the tax and we have been spending those years trying to rally enough support to have a vote on the bill. We put very defined legislation before the members and asked them to get behind that legislation. After 8 years of involvement as a staff member and the last 4 years as a House member, I felt we needed to try a different approach.
In order to move forward on this issue, I have asked House members to join this caucus in an effort to gather the support of those who have an interest in property tax relief, but are uncertain of the best way to reach that goal. I feel very strongly that we need to amass support for our cause before we put another plan out there that just sits in a committee and never comes to the floor of the House for debate and a vote.
I am pleased to inform you that we now have over 85 members in the School Property Tax Relief Caucus. Together, we will be formulating a legislative proposal that has broad support even BEFORE the legislation is drafted. With this approach, we will advance legislation that STARTS with the support of those who will be casting the vote for its passage.
Please do not misconstrue my efforts to work with a broader group of legislators as a compromise of my goal to eliminate the school property tax. While I cannot guarantee that the majority of these caucus members will ultimately support elimination, I believe this approach will provide the best opportunity for me to convince others of the need for complete elimination.
Thank you for your continued and crucial involvement and for your trust in me to move a plan forward which will meet the goal we have been working so hard to reach.
129th Legislative District
Representative Cox is working very closely with the PCTA (our 43 member group statewide coalition) on this issue. The PTCC and PCTA will be spearheading the grassroots effort to advocate for the upcoming legislation and members like you will be essential for helping to raise support and contact legislators.
And speaking of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, we’ve been growing like crazy! Since the last PTCC Update the coalition has grown from thirty-eight to forty-three taxpayer advocacy groups from across the state with five more joining shortly. The dedication and hard work of these groups will be vital to our efforts and their participation is greatly appreciated. Please see the PCTA page on the PTCC website for the locations of these groups and join if there is one near you.
You can make a huge contribution to the cause by forming a new group in your area. It’s easy and the PCTA will give you all the help you need to get started. Simply reply to this email with your contact information and we’ll quickly get you on your way!
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Action Item: I believe that there are only two reasons why even more legislators have not joined Representative Cox’s House property tax caucus – they either oppose elimination or they simply don’t care about the problem. Neither reason is acceptable! Please contact your State Representative to find out if they are a member of the caucus. If they are, thank them for their concern! If they aren’t, tell them that you expect them to join and take part in the discussion for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. You can find a link to your legislator’s contact information here.
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With all of the factors that are currently influencing this issue, the end of the school property tax problem could be in sight. Now, more than ever, we need your assistance. Please forward this email to all of your Pennsylvania friends, encourage them to join the PTCC email Updates list, and spread the word about our fight as widely as possible. See the PTCC "How Can I Help?" page to learn about further ways that you can make a difference. With your help we can get this done!
Thank you, everyone, for your ongoing support. It is appreciated.