House approves Saylor's property tax amendment

Written by Ed Mahon, York Daily Record | May 13, 2015 6:40 AM

Photo by kev72/flickr

(Harrisburg) -- On Tuesday, state representatives approved an amendment to reduce school property taxes by raising the state sales and personal income tax rates, a proposal that would create a major shift in how education is funded in Pennsylvania.

The proposal, combined with current property tax reduction money from gaming revenue, would provide $4.9 billion in tax relief, according to state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, the leading backer of the plan. He called Tuesday's vote the start of a process.

"It is something that this General Assembly has waited way too long to do," Saylor said on the House floor. "It's time for us to give real relief to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania."

The House approved Saylor's amendment with a bipartisan 109 to 86 vote Tuesday afternoon.

Lawmakers rejected other amendments Tuesday evening.

In order to become law, the bill itself still needs to pass the House and Senate, and then get approval from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Wolf has proposed his own property tax reduction plan, which has some key differences with Saylor's plan, including in how funding would be distributed.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan called Tuesday's vote on Saylor's amendment "an important and encouraging development" for moving the process forward and continuing the conversation. He said the governor plans to continue working with lawmakers "to try to narrow the differences."

Saylor has said that his plan, unlike Wolf's, would provide dollar-for-dollar tax reduction for all new revenue raised. Saylor has said his plan would lead to a 40 percent to 60 percent cut in school property taxes for most homeowners, while also providing some increased funding for a property tax and rent rebate program.

Several lawmakers who spoke on the House floor Tuesday said Saylor's proposal wasn't perfect, but that they wanted to keep the conversation going.

"This is not the amendment that I would write. But I'm not in the majority," said state Rep. Bryan Barbin, a Democrat representing parts of Cambria and Somerset counties.

Barbin said lawmakers need to reach an agreement to help seniors stay in their homes.

The proposal from Saylor would raise the personal income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent and the state sales and use tax rate from 6 percent to 7 percent. It would not expand what is covered by the state sales and use tax, Saylor said.

Many opponents of the legislation said it would not do enough to prevent school boards from raising taxes in the future.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, said the proposal should come with a "taxpayer beware" warning in red letters on property tax bills, "because you're going to be paying more."

State Rep. Eli Evankovich, a Republican representing parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, said the proposal would shift costs onto the "younger, working-class families."

State Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery County, said the plan would give relief to malls and other businesses that own a lot of land, while putting the burden on individuals and families.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, was one of the lawmakers who spoke in favor of the proposal on the House floor. He said finding a way to reduce property taxes is not easy.

"There is an expectation among those in the public that there is an easy fix, that there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow," Reed said.

Check out the highlights below.

How lawmakers voted

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Read Saylor's amendment

Viewing this on a mobile device? Click here to read Saylor's amendment..

See our coverage here if you're on a phone.

This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

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