Bye-bye property tax? A new way to fund education

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, August 26, 2013

A pair of bills now making the rounds of the General Assembly may revolutionize Pennsylvania’s schools and Pennsylvania’s taxes. They would bag the historic tradition of funding education with a mix of local property taxes and largesse from the Commonwealth’s General Fund. In their place, school districts would draw from dedicated income and sales taxes – some at a statewide level, others voted in locally.

In one stroke, the most-contentious issue dominating politics and policies across the state would be transformed, with new winners – and new losers. Would this change be for the better?

SB 76 is authored by the chairmen of the Urban Affairs & Housing Committee, David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny). These leaders claim 22 cosponsors in the 50-member Senate – 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. A companion bill, HB 76, has been introduced by State Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks).

Touted as the “Property Tax Independence Act”, this bold measure would do two things, each of which is remarkable by itself. First, it would provide a way for municipalities to cease taxing property entirely. If they willed it, they would be empowered to raise revenue entirely by voting for local income and sales taxes to fund schools – or any other local-government purpose. The burden of taxation would shift from owners and dwellers, to earners and consumers.

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