Op-Ed: Property Tax Elimination: Down but not defeated By: Senator David G. Argall (R-29)

Recent headlines in the New York Times drew attention to the important issue of property tax elimination. The article highlighted efforts in North Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania, but mostly focused on a referendum vote in North Dakota.

North Dakota’s voters recently had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to eliminate their property taxes. Over 70 percent of voters came out against eliminating property taxes, an astounding political defeat that left many observers scratching their heads. Opponents argued that eliminating the property tax would eliminate services and programs many North Dakotans value. Many called it the “plan without a plan,” stating that an $800 million shortfall could impair services.

Unlike the plan in North Dakota, House Bill 1776 and Senate Bill 1400 – the Property Tax Independence Act – are undergoing a thorough and detailed fiscal impact analysis in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The Property Tax Independence Act would entirely eliminate Pennsylvania’s unfair and archaic school district property tax system by expanding our state sales and income taxes, a move that has been requested by thousands of the people I represent.

The House Finance Committee narrowly voted to table House Bill 1776 on June 11 after hours of intense review of the bill. Members on the House Finance Committee questioned various aspects of the bill to ensure this plan would fill the $13 billion that school district property taxes currently provide to fund public education.

On the Senate side, Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and I recently met with the Independent Fiscal Office to request a thorough, bipartisan analysis of Senate Bill 1400. Their objective review of our proposal will help shape our next steps in eliminating this unfair tax.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster) has agreed to hold a public hearing on July 26 at 10 a.m. in Harrisburg to further review Senate Bill 1400. The hearing will feature testimony from proponents and opponents alike.

While we fully anticipate that several special interest groups will hammer away at our plan, as they did in the House of Representatives, we are not without strong advocates. A grassroots organization consisting of over 70 taxpayer groups from throughout the state has been effective in educating Pennsylvanians about our plan and its real financial impact to homeowners.

We look forward to the Independent Fiscal Office’s final report and the Senate Finance Committee’s public hearing as we seek a fairer way to fund our public schools. You can learn more at www.SenatorArgall.com/PropertyTaxElimination.

At the end of the day, we need a better way to fund our public schools rather than relying on a tax created in the early 1800s. While the bill is not perfect, the Property Tax Independence Act represents a fairer way to fund our public schools and moves us away from an unfair and archaic system.

This is a most difficult and complex challenge, but let one thing be crystal clear: We are not giving up!

Senator David G. Argall is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1400: The Property Tax Independence Act. He represents the 29th Senatorial District, which includes all of Schuylkill County and parts of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton counties.

Contact: Jon Hopcraft
(717) 787-2637
(570) 773-0891

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