(Harrisburg) -- An effort to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to clarify that lawmakers may decide what kinds of institutions qualify as charities and escape paying certain taxes is through the Senate.
However, today's 30-20 vote followed objections by some Democrats, who said cash-strapped cities will be hurt.
They say the commonwealth's existing law allows many institutions to escape paying taxes under questionable circumstances and that municipalities have no ability to challenge that status.
But, Republicans who sponsored the amendment would not commit to a revamp of the law. The effort to amend the constitution comes in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling last year that limited lawmakers' power to broaden the definition of a "purely public charity."
“The Supreme Court ruling disregarded the comprehensive work done by the General Assembly through Act 55, which was the culmination of years of work including public hearings throughout the Commonwealth and input from all appropriate and interested parties in the creation of the law,” said Republican Senator Mike Brubaker of Lancaster County, who authored the legislation. “The lack of a uniform statewide standard has created confusion at the local level due to different interpretations by county courts. This confusion and litigation costs surrounding the current situation benefits no one.”
He says based upon the Supreme Court ruling, local taxing authorities have called into question the eligibility of many charities. For example, Brubaker notes, tax exempt statuses for Warren Hospital, Warren County YMCA, and four other non-profit organizations located in Warren County have already been revoked.
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