Will Harrisburg Go Nuclear on Property Taxes?
Even though property taxes in Philadelphia remain low relative to the rest of the region, and much of the Commonwealth, many homeowners were upset when they got their new, much higher tax bills in the wake of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) reassessments.
Now, multiply that reaction by at least 10 and you may approach the level of ire residents of some of the state’s less-well-off rural counties have expressed over similar hikes.
That ire has sparked a movement that could be on the verge of almost totally wiping out property taxes in the state. Though fueled largely by Tea Partiers and a part of the conservative movement, it cuts across ideological lines in strange ways. It could also have a host of unintended consequences if the bill the movement has drafted to bring about this near-total abolition actually does become law.
Writing in City & State Pennsylvania, Ryan Briggs digs into the prospects for and possible consequences of the enactment of Senate Bill 76. Backed by the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition (PTCC), the bill would almost completely eliminate local property taxes statewide in exchange for a doubling of the state income tax and a one percent hike in the state sales tax.
The bill would also leave county property taxes in place. That might actually mean a double whammy for Philadelphians, who live in the state’s only consolidated city-county and thus might not see a dime in property tax reduction.
In the 2015 legislative session, the bill died in the Senate after Lt. Gov. Mike Stack cast a tie-breaking vote against it. House Speaker Mike Turzai remains an opponent, but Gov. Tom Wolf, widely seen as vulnerable for re-election, has softened his position.
The lineup for and against has all the elements of the Donald Trump insurgency. The chief backers are largely veterans of the Tea Party and “9-12” movements, while normally Republican groups like the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry are opposed. Advocates for poorer school districts note that the bill as written freezes existing inequities in local school funding in place, and advocates for low-income renters predict that landlords won’t pass property tax savings onto renters, thus increasing rather than decreasing the likelihood of evictions, which outnumber foreclosures as the chief threat to housing stability among poorer Pennsylvanians.
But with a more strongly Republican majority in both houses of the General Assembly and a weakened Tom Wolf in the governor’s office, SB 76’s proponents like its chances. Will you?
The grassroots movement to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania (City & State Pennsylvania)
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