Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

RST: Replace property tax with higher sales/income taxes?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 27, 2013 1:10 PM

What to look for on Radio Smart Talk, Wednesday, August 28, 2013:


Taxes have been levied on landowners for hundreds of years.  The thinking was that the amount of property one had equated to their wealth or ability to pay taxes.

There's no historic record, but the first complaint about property taxes probably came immediately after the initial tax notice went out.

For decades, property owners, farmers, older people, those on fixed incomes and candidates for elected office have called property taxes the worst tax ever and demanded they be eliminated or reduced.

In 1989, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey pushed a property tax reform proposal that voters soundly rejected in a referendum because it was too complicated or taxes would increase for some and go down for others.

In 2004, Pennsylvania legalized slot machines with the profits supposed to reduce property taxes.

Here we are in 2013 and property taxes are still the main source of revenue for Pennsylvania school districts.

However, bi-partisan legislation in both the state house and senate that would eliminate the property tax and make up the revenue with increased sales and income taxes is said to have momentum.

The main sponsor of Senate Bill 76, Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) joins us on Radio Smart Talk Wednesday to talk taxes.

Listen to the program:


Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill)

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:17

    Thomas in Manheim Township writes:

    What ever happened to the great idea of having casino gambling to rid ourselves of school taxes???? That was the largest lie ever told voters. My tax has risen every year but the amount i receive (108$) has not changed. Why were we told this would GREATLY reduce or eliminate school taxes but in reality it did not. We have more gambling but no tax reduction.

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:19

    Ron in Lancaster writes:

    I can’t believe that the internet tax fairness act has not gained more momentum. Those who are spending money would be the ones taxed. The local retailer would be put on a fair playing field with the guy on the internet. Local and state governments would gain revenue. With computerized point of sale systems it just wouldn’t be that big of a deal to implement.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:20

    Tom in Carlisle emails:

    My concern is for the people who rent their homes. Their income and sales taxes will be increased. What about the amount property tax renters pay as part of their rent? Will landlords receive a wind-fall profit as their property taxes are eliminated? Will landlords be required to reduce rents by the equivalent amount of tax relief they receive? Seems very unfair if they are not.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:21

    Dave in Red Lion emails:

    Perhaps they could start with a property tax freeze.
    Thus getting the extra revenue through personal and sales tax.
    Also if there is a school voucher program,the the parents should not recieve any more than what they pay in school property tax,thus not turning the voucher program into a "UNFUNDED ENTITLEMENT".

    Also rethink the structure of the k-12 requirements.
    It's antiquated in a society where today's children are developing and experiencing far more than when the system was developed.
    Meaning some would like to go to blue collar,military etc ,non advanced education(college),possibly trimming required attendance.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:24

    Linda emails:

    If districts are going to get the same amount through the state as they bring in with the property, what happens when population shifts make a difference in the number of students in a district. How does the money get balanced?

  • Ronald John img 2013-08-28 08:26

    Is any consideration given to taxing pensions and social security at some level? The fact that they are exempt from taxation seems a gross inequity in the tax code. This is especially obvious when we learn of the 6 figure pensions some receive.

  • steven first img 2013-08-28 08:31

    You are forgetting the fact that a lot of poor people do not own their own homes and often rent so they will then be asked to pay more taxes via an increase in sales tax. Home owners well still be paying just about as much as for taxes just in different ways. This bill fixes nothing and even causes poor people to pay more taxes not less...useless

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:56

    Tom in Harrisburg emails:

    We have some counties that assess homes and we have some that have never assessed properties, and when counties do assess, their are always arguments and appeals by homeowners over the price their home is assessed at.
    We need to eliminate property assessments and go to site on sale assessment which means the price you pay for your house is what you will be assessed at until you sell the home. It is the one part of California's Proposition 13 that has been a success.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:57

    Kay emails:

    1. Sales tax hurts middle and lower income families.
    2. School boards have State and Federal mandates they must fund.
    3. The state budget has been giving less and less for public education
    4. Seniors are rarely, if ever "thrown out of their homes"
    5. School cost keep rising - the teacher retirement packages are the same as PA Reps and Senators

    I could go on but, I'm too annoyed.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:58

    Angela in Lebanon emails:

    1. When I owned a home in Conoy Twp we did not pay property taxes because of the recycling facility. People who live in Conoy would now pay much more.
    2. What happens if the sales tax or such raises more money than the $ for $ match…now where does that money go?
    3. As someone who rents the landlord would get a break and the renters would ultimately pay more in sales tax and not get a break from the landlord.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:58

    Theresa emails:

    What about rental properties, i own three rental properties, would the school tax be eliminated there. under the homestead/farmstead act they do not receive gambling funds reductions.

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:59

    Ron in Harrisburg emails:

    Is any consideration given to taxing pensions and social security at some level? The fact that they are exempt from taxation seems a gross inequity in the tax code. This is especially obvious when we learn of the 6 figure pensions some receive.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 08:59

    Laura in Lewisburg emails:

    Sounds good taking the elderly as the focus on this bill proposed... BUT, when we can't even keep regional bridges open, and thousands are being re-organized for less-wt bearing loads, why would we eliminate prospects of income--such as the proposed large oil refinery in western Pa?

    These new businesses (if they paid property taxes) could really assist the state in lessening burdens of use--such as the natural gas industry adds to our overall costs as a state.

    It would appear we are giving large prospective inbound businesses a break, when we currently cannot even maintain the state's infrastructure. What a gift! Why does the PA resident always seem to bear the load of out-of-state businesses?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:00

    Nancy emails:

    I am someone who would actually benefit from this bill but I am concerned about the "all or nothing approach" to this. If a bill was proposed that would be a hybrid of property taxes and sales tax increase. I think one of the reasons we cannot get legislation passed is that we do not approach change incrementally. Question: Is there a bill that is not as extreme as this "total elimination of property taxes for schools"?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:00

    Tommy emails:

    How does this bill help school districts that are under funded now.? Like School districts of Lancaster.. they have been underwater for years and the city itself can't tolerate another tax because of ancient laws that limit the city's ability to tax.

  • Susan Spicka img 2013-08-28 09:04

    Right now some wealthy suburban school districts spend more than $20,000 per student and receive just 15% of their funding from the state. Other school districts in less affluent areas spend around $8,000-$9,000 per student and receive around 40% of their funding from the state. If property taxes are eliminated ALL school districts will receive 100% of their funding from the state. What will happen is that people who live in poor areas and send their children to low-spending school districts will end up subsidizing the education of the students who attend very high-spending school districts. In addition, people who live in modest homes in poor areas (like Franklin and Fulton Counties) will receive very little relief from taxes as their state income tax will go up nearly 40% and they will be paying more in sales tax. Folks who live in million dollar mansions in suburban Philly will see a huge reduction in the taxes they pay. This entire proposition is a red herring that will NEVER pass because it is bad for most people in PA. However, it does allow the PA GOP to distract people from the fact that they have voted to slash state spending to public schools and THEY are the reason their constituents are paying higher school taxes.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:06

    Cathy emails:

    Why can't we look at other states like Delaware to develop a funding plan?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:06

    John in Orrtanna emails:

    I've come late to the discussion, so I missed the part about precisely how the property tax will be replaced. Could you please restate that detail?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:07

    A listener writes:

    I would like to point out that property owners are not the only ones with children in school. Rental properties under five units are taxed as a single residence so don't tell me renters are paying their fair share. Income and sales taxes are at least touching all of us. And the rich will pay more because they purchase more. That will please the democrats!!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:07

    Jon emails:

    Why does WITF have no opposing panel participant?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-28 09:09

    Bob in Palmerton emails:

    I just tuned in and a guest who was comparing HB / SB 76 to prop 13 in California is completely wrong. HB / SB 76 will in fact provide a much more stable source of school funding than the tax the home owner method. The caller indicated that as inflation rose schools were unable to provide the needed resources for the student. The problem with that statement is SD property tax increases have far, far out paced inflation. Many elderly are making a decision to eat or pay property taxes.

    I represent main street PA! Trust me, property taxes are the number one issue for Main Street PA! My wife and I have made the decision that we will vacate the state if this bill is not passed and this plan is shared by many. We refuse to be forced to work forever to fund a system that has no accountability to those that fund the system while those within the system can retire in their late 50s.

    We realize that if we do not make this move soon property taxes will render our home un-sellable due to outrageous property taxes or we will be forced to sell will below market value. In Monroe county even lowering sale price well below market value has not stimulated sales.

    With regard to the source of foreclosures question. If the home owners does not have to pay property taxes.

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  • Linda img 2013-08-28 09:20

    Regarding raising the sales tax in lieu of property tax, my comment is this: It is my understanding that all businesses in PA that collect sales tax get to keep a percentage of the collected tax when they submit it to Harrisburg. If this is true, PA needs to do away with this antiquated practice. Can you imagine how much a Wal-Mart, car dealership or any other business that sells a lot of taxable merchandise rakes in by being able to keep a portion of the collected sales tax? I questioned the PA Dept. of Revenue on this and their response was: "We do this as an incentive for businesses to submit the collected tax in a timely manner." In a timely manner? This submittal is all done electronically by a computer keyboard stroke. Does anyone have any comment on this?

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  • Terry Sinclair img 2013-08-28 10:34

    House & Senate Bill 76 will completely eliminate the punitive and destructive school property tax system that has ruined PA's economy and school funding. HB/SB 76 will for the first time stabilize school funding preserving teacher positions, student programs and insure that each school district is funded at their current levels. HB/SB 76 will also create an economic boom for business and PA's economy! Estimates are that 10,000 homes are sold at sheriff sales in PA annually due to excessive school property taxes. HB/SB 76 will allow everybody to share the costs of public education, not just property owners! Sales tax will go to 7% and the Earned Income Tax will go to 4.34%. For too long, property owners have been penalized by ever increasing school property taxes. Everybody complains about fairness, well now it's fair for all to share the costs of public education, not just property owners. If you don't want to be the next property owners to loose your home to a sheriff's sale, get involved. demand that your Representative/Senator support and pass HB/SB 76 this Fall 2013 session. Visit to learn more.

  • pataxpayers img 2013-08-28 10:44

    The amount of uninformed conjecture and misinformation posted here is astonishing. Has anyone taken the time to learn the facts of this plan before commenting? Please take a few minutes of your time to educate yourself about the details of this legislation, its driving philosophy, and the urgency of the school property tax problem. An informative video and plain language explanations of these factors are all available on the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition website at

  • berryfriesen img 2013-08-28 10:59

    Did you notice Senator Argall's dodgey answer to Scott's question about the impact of this "reform" on the cost of food and clothing?
    The senator said no problem, the "WIC food package would be exempt" and so would clothing purchases "of $50 or less".

    The WIC food package list is very restricted and covers perhaps 20 - 25 percent of what one finds in a super market. There is no meat on the list at all, to cite just one example.

    Current law exempts all non-prepared food, as I recall. So the senator's bill would be a big step backward for lower-income families. Given what has happened to wages, that includes many of us now.

    The other thing I notice is the irony of so-called conservative politicians trying to eliminate a stable and reliable source of funding that is administered by people we know and elect locally and replace it with an unstable source that would be administered by one of the most entrenched and unaccountable state legislatures in America.

    Goes to show, I suppose, then when it comes to breaking apart arrangements that serve the common good, the so-called conservatives often lead the pack.

    • Terry Sinclair img 2013-08-28 11:15

      The current school property tax system is by no means stable as tens of thousands of business and residential property owners are losing their homes annually because of excessive school property taxes. As of July, 2013, PA has approx. ONE BILLION DOLLARS in delinquent school property taxes. This is a fact. Most importantly, HB/SB 76 will allow all persons to pay their share of the costs of public education, not just property owners. Property owners have constitutional rights and now because they have paid the vast majority of excessive and ever rising school property taxes as the principal pocketbook, they are demanding that everybody share that cost. It's past time for everybody to pay the costs of public education, not just property owners. The PSEA should back this plan as it will finally stabilize public school funding unlike the current destructive negative revenue system.

  • alanddeb img 2013-08-28 12:53

    I listened to this broadcast and bristled! It is amazing how FEW people, - most who called in, do NOT understand this bill or have taken any time whatsoever to read about it. It is available for all to see, and those who know the bill inside and out will help you understand it, if you go to This bill helps everyone except the filthy rich who do not need any help. They go on buying and are not affected in the least by the tax that replaces the school tax - that unfair, completely inequitable form of extortion that is ever so unconstitutional any way you look at it. For you who are among the status quo, like the Lancaster caller who does not take issue with paying $8000 in property tax, let him keep tickling the dragon's tail. Men's best attempts are often thwarted, and he could find himself on the skids tomorrow, and his tune would change quick as he greets a sheriff who uses full authority to kick him from the home he likely worked hard to be able to buy. And the lady who indicated that perhaps the tax sales were from mortgage foreclosures rather than school taxes: The school tax is a BIG part of the mortgage payment. It can and does drive the foreclosure, and the newspapers is and has been rife with foreclosures, not to mention those who are short selling or selling because their incomes can no longer keep up with the demands of your school board. For that person so worried about the schools losing control, the school board relishes their 100 percent control with zero accountability to the taxpayers. How about letting the taxpayers have some control! HB/SB 76 still gives them all the control they need to completely fund their schools, it just does not give them UNBRIDLED control, and THAT is the difference. Judging by the comments, people have been lead by the nose so long, they just keep marching to the slaughter. Wake up folks, the status quo is not sustainable any longer. As Senator Argall stated, HB/SB 76 is revenue neutral, and the funding formula will be achieved fairly, but it cannot be incorporated into this bill. The bill clearly states that schools will receive funding based on their current funding WITH annual increases tied to economic conditions, - like most taxpayers paychecks! Also, schools can use a referendum for large purchases (like a new school). If anyone out there is in the comfortable position to pay $8000 a year for school tax, I say nothing says you cannot donate to the school! Just know that most taxpayers are not, and if truth be known, are forgoing a lot, like repairs to their homes, car, and true necessities that make living a real struggle, so why not stop this carnage once and for all, and go in a new direction that will strengthen our middle class and businesses. Comparing PA to CA is apples to oranges. PA is afforded the opportunity to make this work, and NOW is the time. Teachers who have taken time to read the bill agree. The State teachers Union has NO gripe here except that they like their current position of being able to turn your pockets inside out, and to flex their muscles at you. It is time they recognize their Cadillac days of splurging on themselves are over (note I say State Teachers UNION, NOT the students they profess to put first). If leadership lags behind, or is unsupportive, many are watching and ready to press the "out" button. The taxpayers in this struggle are outweighing those special interests. BTW, Rep. Seth Grove has come up with a "scheme" bill to try to play all sides; especially his own. Read that proposal and run. Again folks, know the facts on HB/SB 76. It is the best thing since sliced bread, and it is only getting stronger.

  • alanddeb img 2013-08-28 12:56

    A BIG thumbs up on Terry Sinclair's comment. RIGHT ON THE MONEY!

  • Politics Watcher img 2013-08-28 18:12

    What a bad idea. If it doesn't actually eliminate property taxes, and doesn't level out school funding (equal per student), then what's the point?

    Seems like a Republican excuse to shift to a more regressive tax system, namely sales taxes. Always shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor.

    Make it equal funding per student, and income tax only, and I'll support it.

  • Edward Taggart Jr img 2013-08-28 22:16

    I support bill 76 and eliminate the school tax for home owners !
    it should be the responsibility of everyone to pay not just home owners!

  • edstem09 img 2013-08-29 03:53

    My problem with this plan is that it is a bonanza to wealthy pensioners.

    Our state has thousands of retired state employees, retired college employees and retired school district employees who are receiving bonanza pensions of $100,000 to over $400,000 a year.

    In PA, pension income is NOT taxed. So they will now pay no income tax regardless of how high it is, which pays locally for schools, and no state income tax to help the state fund the schools. PLUS now you want to eliminate their property tax.

    This is obscene avarice by our education and government elites at a terrible price of crushing lower middle class working folks with higher taxes on their working wages.

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