Monday, November 23, 2015

Senate Fails In Bid To Eliminate School Property Taxes In Tie Vote Broken By Lt. Gov. Stack

The Senate effort to eliminate school property taxes failed in its attempt Monday when a vote on an amendment to House Bill 683 (Rapp-R-Forest) resulted in a tie vote-- 24 to 24-- and Lt. Gov. Stack (D) broke the tie by voting no.
Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) the amendment was based on, was not present to vote.  One Senate seat is vacant and due to be filled Tuesday with the swearing in of Sen.-Elect Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny).
The amendment would have increased the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 to 4.95 percent and the Sales Tax from 6 to 7 percent and broaden the tax to raise nearly $13 billion.
The bill would expand the Sales Tax base to include most food, candy, gum, and clothing that costs more than $50 per garment; newspapers and magazines, caskets, flags and alcohol served at drinking establishments. It would include towing services, legal services, investment advice, veterinary services, public transportation, sporting events and dry cleaning.
The amendment voted on by the Senate is available online.
Even if the Senate passed the bill, the House has never passed legislation to totally eliminate school property taxes, despite several attempts over the years.  The best they have ever done was when it passed House Bill 504 (Gabler-R-Clearfield) which increased the Personal Income and Sales taxes enough to provide $5 billion worth of relief.
Gov. Wolf also said in remarks before the Pennsylvania Press Club Monday he would veto the bill. reported earlier in the evening that using a Sales Tax increase to fund school property tax relief has, in fact, been dropped from the budget discussions.
Critics of the bill said it is not fair to release businesses of over $4 billion in property taxes, 412 of the 501 school districts would still impose a property tax because of liability for paying off bonds and the broadening of the Sales Tax would be burdensome.
Groups representing the business community, school districts and nonprofit groups have opposed the amendment and Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) it was based on.
Bigger Property Tax Cuts, Sales Tax Dropped From Budget Talks

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