I read with interest the op-ed from state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, who has been in the legislature since 2007 and hasn’t done anything about escalating school property taxes on homeowners, who increasingly struggle to pay each fall.
I have spoken to people who have paid for 45 years or more, some who have never had children. Some people pay $12,000 a year to fund schools simply for owning a home.
I attended the hearing because I am running to serve the people in the 121st Legislative District. It’s fascinating that Pashinski convened this dog and pony hearing in the middle of the afternoon when hard-working people are out trying to pay for this unreasonable and escalating tax.
Pashinski invited the Keystone Research Center, a liberal think tank whose spokesperson parroted the usual “tax the rich” rhetoric and suggested a shale extraction tax to pay for education. Doesn’t anyone realize that everybody and their sister in Harrisburg will line up to get their hands on this type of funding?
Pashinski and his committee did allow representatives of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers Associations and the Pennsylvania Liberty Alliance to testify. Individuals from these two groups discussed the current system of funding schools through homeowners as unfair and regressive. In many cases, low and middle income homeowners pay a much higher percentage of their income than more well-to-do payers.
The solution lies with raising the state sales tax to seven percent. The sales tax has been the same since 1968 and would produce a consistent stream of revenue to fund schools. In addition, there would be a modest increase in the personal income tax and an expansion tax on some service. With tax forgiveness already in place for lower income workers, this would level the playing field and would be fairly applied to the average taxpayer.
Pashinski contended that House Bill 76 was flawed in his opinion piece. Amendments to the legislation were added to deal with the endless escalation to property taxes, pegged at one-half billion dollars annually by the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office. The IFO added there will be sufficient funding for schools with a dollar-for-dollar replacement of all property school property taxes eliminated in the district.
Pashinski’s piece was incorrect on other items he contended would be taxed under H.B. 76. For the record, doctor and dental visits, many food items, clothing less than $50 per item and many other purchases are not subject to tax under HB/SB 76. Keep in mind school property taxes will disappear forever. This legislation has been vetted on three occasions and has been shown to work as written.
Pashinski points to the fact that 488 schools have debt. Whether or not property taxes are eliminated, these debts won’t be wiped off the books. The IFO estimates the average remaining property tax debt statewide would be about 17 percent of the original property tax bill before elimination. This means the average homeowner would see an 83 percent reduction in their property taxes and, when the debt is satisfied, property taxes to fund schools will go away.
Pashinski has done nothing legislatively to help the homeowners of his district with this problem. I guess when you are collecting two public pensions and working on a third, the issue of school taxes is not as pressing as it is on our senior citizens and young home owners who are scraping to get by under the current archaic system. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the Pennsylvania House and Senate in our region do support this reform. I have heard your concern while standing on porches in the 121st District.
When I am sent to Harrisburg, I will join the growing chorus of legislators from both sides of the aisle who will do something about this nightmare.
Sue Henry is a candidate for state representative in the 121st Legislative District.