All Set to Mess Up an Opportunity to Improve the Property Tax
Pennsylvania Governor Schweiker calls for session to cut property tax
When some politicians say they want "property tax reform," they are not actually seeking reform at all -- they just want tax cuts for a few large land speculators. Journalists need to be careful and do their own investigating.
Here are a few excerpts from a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
by Ovetta WigginsNearly a month after 128 lawmakers demanded that he act, Gov. Schweiker called for a special legislative session to cut local property taxes in Pennsylvania.
The special session - the first to be initiated by the General Assembly - will begin Sept. 4 and could run until Nov. 30, when the regular legislative session ends.
"I have spoken with legislative leaders in both chambers, who agree this special session should not be about political pandering but about taking a historic step forward on one of the commonwealth's most pressing problems," Schweiker said in a statement. "Together we can move quickly and decisively to bring about real reform and new solutions."
It is unclear what proposals will be considered. But it will be up to the governor to decide.[The Progress Report predicts that the main "reform" to be considered will be a cut in property taxes coupled with an increase in more volatile, less stable revenue sources such as the Jim Crow sales tax and the income tax. In any case, taxes on in-state persons would rise while out-of-state property holders would get tax cuts. Housing costs would rise and sprawl, already a terrible problem in Pennsylvania, would worsen. Pennsylvania politicians seem determined to hurt their own citizens.]
Schweiker was compelled to call the special session after State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Northampton) discovered a clause in the Pennsylvania Constitution that allows a majority of the legislature to force a special session. The obscure provision has never been used before.
"This is an historic moment for the people of Pennsylvania," Boscola said yesterday. "Pennsylvania can't wait for property tax relief. This is 30 years in the making and now is when action needs to be taken, not six months from now, not a year from now."
Boscola presented a petition, with the signatures of 102 House members and 26 senators, to Schweiker on July 1.
The special session will be the fourth convened in the last decade. Gov. Tom Ridge called two during his tenure, one in 1996 to address blizzards and flooding, and another in 1995 to consider crime.
The special session will also be the General Assembly's second attempt in 15 years to make changes to the way property taxes are levied in the state.
In November 1989, then-Gov. Robert P. Casey called a special session to tackle property taxes. The legislature came up with a plan early the following year, but it needed voter approval.
[The Progress Report reminds you -- the referendum was defeated by a huge 3-1 margin as voters were not convinced that the politicians' plan would help them in any way; the plan would have cut taxes for out-of-state land speculators and increased in-state taxes.]
Will legislators act for short-term popularity, or for long-term economic soundness? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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