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Features

Personal Property Tax Independence Act Tax Calculator
Excel calculator to see your tax savings under the provisions ofThe Property Tax Independence Act. Now includes calculations for Philadelphia property tax reduction!

The Property Tax Independence Act Petitions
Sign an individual petition to demonstrate your approval of the The Property Tax Independence Act or distribute a multi-signature petition to really gather support! Print extra copies for your friends, family, and neighbors so they can help, too! Download the petitions as PDF files here.

Why school property taxes need to be eliminated!
Two excellent essays on the fallacy of property taxes for education funding.

 

PTCC Archive


21 November 2006

Dear Friends,

Just a short note today and a very interesting newspaper article.

True reform in the Legislature for Pennsylvania taxpayers took a back seat again on Monday when the status quo was maintained in Senate Caucus votes.

In the majority Republican Caucus, Jeff Piccola, a reform candidate for President Pro Tem, was defeated by Joe Scarnati, a reported minion of outgoing President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer, who was defeated in the May primary in the wake of the pay raise furor. Although the election was by secret ballot, anecdotal accounts say that the initial vote was 14-14-1, with candidate Stewart Greenleaf casting the lone vote for himself. Senator Greenleaf reportedly voted for Scarnati on the second ballot.

Others elected to Senate Republican Caucus seats:
- Majority Leader: Dominic Pileggi
- Majority Whip: Jane Clare Orie
- Appropriations Chair: Gib Armstrong

The Democratic Caucus leadership remained the same:
- Minority Leader: Robert J. Mellow
- Minority Whip: Michael O'Pake
- Appropriations Committee: Vincent Fumo

So once more it’s business-as-usual for the Legislature and the people of Pennsylvania, despite negative voter sentiment and the resulting backlash at the polls. Even in the wake of stunning defeats in the May primaries for Jubelirer and Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill, those in power have refused to embrace any kind of meaningful reform in the Legislature. These politicians apparently must learn their lessons the hard way; the May 2008 primary elections are only eighteen months away, and we’ll have the opportunity then to teach them again.

Our effort for school property tax reform will continue nonetheless. Look for more updates as the start of the new legislative session nears and we ramp up the pressure on these recalcitrant politicians.

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Pottstown Mercury writer Tony Phyrillas summed up the school property tax situation very nicely on November 19 in a MUST READ column. The original is available here. The column is also reprinted at the end of this e-mail.

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Finally, shortly after sending last Thursday’s update I received an e-mail from a PTCC subscriber that asked “Are you a Democrat?”. I’m guessing that question was prompted by my criticism of John Perzel and the House Republican Caucus leadership.

Since the Republicans apparently retained control of the Legislature in the November 7 election, they are the ones who will set the agenda for the next legislative session. As such, their leadership is critical if we are to see substantive change in the way the legislature does its business and therefore is a prime target for reform, more so than the Democrats who will have to follow their agenda.

But the problem is endemic to both parties. Caucus leadership can and does exercise tremendous power over the rank-and-file legislators by threatening to withhold funding for support staff and re-election campaigns, by threatening removal from committee assignments, and even by threatening to gerrymander Representatives’ districts to place them at a disadvantage for their re-election. Many Representatives’ votes are swayed by such threats. Yet the members of both Caucuses, even though they had reform candidates on their slates, chose to re-elect the current failed leadership (Republicans Perzel and Smith and Democrat DeWeese) when they had the opportunity to end this iron-fisted control of their votes. Such is the stranglehold the embedded leadership of both parties has over their memberships.

The question of my political affiliation will remain unanswered here because I do not want to be accused of partisan bias. If you have been a PTCC subscriber since the early days of this list, you’ll probably remember that I have said on several occasions that I have equal contempt for members of both parties on the property tax elimination issue. This has not changed, and I make this promise to you: I will NEVER allow partisan prejudice to influence what I write or what stance I take on an issue. I will work for what I think is best for all of the people of Pennsylvania; I will call the issues as I see them, regardless of party affiliation.

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I want to thank all PTCC subscribers for your continuing support of the property tax elimination issue. Together we will succeed in achieving fairness for all Pennsylvania taxpayers!

Please have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

David
PTCC Administrator

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A Government Exercise in Futility

By Tony Phyrillas

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who offended the gods. As punishment, he was forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill but before he reached the top, the rock would roll back down. Sisyphus would have to repeat his task for eternity.

The legend of Sisyphus speaks about the futility and hopelessness of some tasks.

If Sisyphus lived in modern-day Pennsylvania, he probably would have been appointed to a tax study commission by his local school board.

All across Pennsylvania, hundreds of volunteers have been meeting to make recommendations to their respective school boards on the best way to levy taxes to fund school budgets.

The tax commissions are a requirement of Act 1, the so-called property tax relief bill the state Legislature came up with after an eight-month special session. Act 1 was promptly signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell, who went on to proclaim he delivered on his promise to cut property taxes, although his plan delivers rebates to 20 percent of Pennsylvania residents.

As the tax commissions make recommendations to school boards over the next few weeks, it will become apparent to all Pennsylvania taxpayers that Act 1 is one of the biggest scams ever perpetuated on an unsuspecting public by politicians.

Most Pennsylvania residents will end up paying more in taxes under Act 1. One area school district calculated that 73 percent of its homeowners will pay more in taxes under this "property tax relief" plan.

Frequently heard comments about Act 1 at tax commission meetings include: "an exercise in futility," "a sick joke," "a no-win situation," "a dead end" and "two steps up, three steps back."

One area tax study commission reviewed a dozen scenarios for tinkering with the school district's tax rate and concluded that the majority of its taxpayers would be worse off under all 12 scenarios.

Some say Act 1 was a deliberate slap in the face to school districts by Gov. Rendell and the Legislature because more than 80 percent of the state's 501 school districts rejected an earlier "tax relief" plan known as Act 72. Remember last year when Rendell questioned the intelligence of school board members who voted against Act 72?

Could Act 1 be payback by Rendell and the Legislature because Pennsylvania's political aristocracy was forced to confront the property tax issue for most of its last session?

Many school districts are holding out hope that the Legislature will come to its senses and repeal Act 1 once 55 new legislators are sworn into office in January. But the recent election of the same party leaders who pushed through the pay raise of 2005 and Act 72 and Act 1 makes you wonder if anyone in Harrisburg has any clue at all.

If Act 1 is not repealed, taxpayers will have to learn phrases like "back-end referendum" and "front-end referendum." Act 1 will pit elderly homeowners against younger wage earners to see who pays more in school taxes. Act 1 gives voters a chance to say "yes" or "no" to a tax shift from property taxes to an earned-income tax (EIT) or a personal-income tax (PIT). Who is going to vote "yes" to raising their own taxes?

Back to Sisyphus. If voters turn down a recommendation to switch to an EIT or PIT when they go to the polls in May 2007, school districts fall back on the property tax. And even if an EIT or PIT is approved, school districts can still raise property taxes each year. Also keep in mind that renters will never receive a tax break under Act 1. Any reduction in the property tax goes only to low-income homeowners who file the necessary paperwork.

Why are Rendell and the Legislature making property owners jump through rings of fire to get a few hundred dollars in property tax relief? That's a question voters should have asked themselves before re-electing Rendell and so many incumbents to the Legislature.

The only viable answer to the property tax quandary is the total elimination of property taxes under the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future, commonly known as the Commonwealth Caucus Plan. But Rendell and every single Democrat in the state Legislature oppose the plan. The most votes the Caucus Plan received in the last session was 74, all Republicans. A majority of 102 is needed to pass the House.

Gov. Rendell and the Legislature shirked their responsibility by punting the property tax question back to voters. We elect these people to represent us and we reward them handsomely to make decisions. Rendell and the Legislature should not have forced residents to pick their poison with Act 1.

Contact your legislator today and demand they repeal Act 1 and support the Commonwealth Caucus Plan to eliminate property taxes. No more excuses. If your legislator wants to keep his or her job, they have to start doing their job.

Remind them that 2008 will be here in no time and you have a long memory. The job of cleaning up Harrisburg has just begun.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, PA.