SB76 End Run Failure Explained

By Sen Scott Wagner SB76 End Run Failure Explained

After much debate and discussion on Monday in the Senate caucus, Senator Dave Argall later on the Senate floor offered an amendment to House Bill 683 that contained language that was similar to the language in Senate Bill 76.

The amendment was voted on by the full Senate – the vote was 24 – yes votes ( 18 Republicans – 6 Democrats ) and 24 – no votes ( 12 Republicans – 12 Democrats)  – Lt. Governor Stack cast the tie breaking vote of no – so the amendment failed.

While the no vote might be viewed as a defeat – I see progress – # 1 – the issue of school tax elimination made its way to the Senate floor for a vote – I personally, along with other Republican Senators, had many unanswered questions but I voted yes to get the ball on the field – I give our Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman credit for allowing the amendment to the Senate floor for a vote – # 2 – I am reaching out to many of the Republican Senators who voted no to ask what their concerns and reasons for voting no were.

The reasons for the no votes by some of my Republican colleagues are understandable and deserve a chance to be addressed.

Some of the reasons I heard from my colleagues who voted no on the bill were as follows:

– No cost containment is taking place in the schools – increasing wages and benefits, not tied to CPI Index
– Cannot support raising the sales tax to 7% when their Senate district borders Delaware where there is zero sales tax
– Issues with how the funds controlled by the state would flow to their school districts

Another large issue is the current “Hold Harmless” agreements– this means no school district would receive less funding next year than they received the previous year – some school districts are receiving $8-10,000 per student and some districts receive $20-25,000 per student – we need to completely rework the funding formula.

I am fully aware of the school property tax burden on many working families – I am also a private sector business owner.

When I received the tax rates proposed in the amendment on Monday I did a back of the napkin calculation of what the increased personal income tax and sales tax would cost my company and me – the result would be a minimum of  $200,000 per year (personal income tax and sales tax) – I am watchful of how the new taxes that are intended to eliminate school taxes on real estate would also impact businesses.

My calculation for the increased taxes my company and I would pay are the gross taxes that would apply –  we would see eliminated school taxes of approximately $60,000 on our various properties, which I would deduct from the additional taxes, but at the end of the day the increased tax impact would be in the $140,000 per year range – I am also aware that any additional sales tax that my business would pay would be deducted as a business expense and would reduce our federal tax liability.

For readers who understand different tax categories, my company is a Sub-S Corporation so pass through income would be taxed at the higher rate.

I can assure you of this point –  the “Property Tax Ball” is out on the field and is not going away – until it gets resolved.

This past April I circulated a memo proposing a piece of legislation called the “Taxpayer Fairness in Compensation Act” asking for co-sponsors.

Sen. Wagner represents the 28th District in the Pennsylvania Senate.

SB76 End Run Failure Explained

SB76 Free Lunch Not

By Sen. Scott Wagner SB76 Free Lunch Not

This week has been busy with many people visiting my Senate office in Harrisburg and many emails received regarding Senate Bill 76 – The Property Tax Independence Act.

If SB76 is passed it would eliminate school taxes on all real estate.

To be clear – local county and municipal taxes would remain in place.

The elimination of school taxes would apply to all real estate in Pennsylvania – residential, commercial and industrial.

To completely eliminate school taxes on real estate in PA the legislature has to find between $12-14 Billion Dollars of revenue from other sources.

Other sources mean new taxes, increased taxes, and lifting exemptions on goods or services not currently taxed.

There is no free lunch – money is not falling out of the sky – so everyone has to have realistic expectations.

I have been a private sector business owner for over 35 years and I learned over 20 years ago this bit of wisdom from a business associate – “Begin with the end result in mind.”

So here is how we begin the task of eliminating school taxes on real estate – we have to identify the actual dollar amount that is needed to cover the school tax elimination – that is the easy part.

Here is the hard part of SB76 – we currently have 500 school districts in PA – each school district has a school board – to be clear there are 500 different school boards that are comprised of volunteer board members.

Each school district negotiates teacher contracts for wages and benefits without any input from the legislature.

Currently there are many school districts renewing teacher contracts with annual salary increases of anywhere from 2% to 3.5% increases – these increases are being given in a period when the CPI index is less than 1%.

The private sector business world is seeing dramatic health insurance increases – in the private sector it is customary for employees to pay for between 20% and 30% of their monthly health insurance costs.

In the Philadelphia School District teachers pay zero toward their health insurance – many teachers throughout PA pay a lower percentage toward their monthly health insurance costs than private sector workers.

We still have not fixed the pension crisis in PA.

Prevailing wage mandates are still required for construction and maintenance projects at school districts.

In my own school district in York this past summer the school district replaced roofs on several buildings – the school finance director requested two bids to replace the roofs, the first bid required using prevailing wage labor and the second bid did not require prevailing wage labor.

The prevailing wage labor price was $2.8 Million Dollars – the non-prevailing wage price was $2.2 Million Dollars a difference of $600,000 – Six Hundred Thousand Dollars – the district had no choice but to award the contract using mandated prevailing wage labor.

I call school districts the “Hungry Monster” that needs to be put on a diet – until we solve salary and health insurance increases – SB 76 will be a disaster – we MUST get school costs under control first.

Another very large issue with school boards is that I estimate that between 25% and 50% of volunteer school board members are married to a teacher, have a son or daughter who are teachers, the board member may be a teacher at another school or the board member may have been a former teacher – My point is that there is a large amount of conflict on school boards – these conflicts must be resolved and eliminated.

The conflict of interest on school boards is similar to the fox guarding the chicken coop.

So here is the dilemma that I face when voting on SB 76 – have spiraling costs been contained or eliminated – and where is replacement revenue coming from?

Here is another bit of wisdom I heard over 20 years  – “Align your expectations with reality.”

In reality the SB 76 issue is front burner for everyone – it must be done correctly or three years from now what was a good intention will explode.

That leads me to my closing comment –  “I am a person that will tell you what you need to hear – not want you want to hear.”

SB 76 must be done with great thought, planning and precision – My colleagues in the Senate are committed to getting this issue to the finish line.

I intend to vote for SB76 but it is important that it be done properly and not just jammed through.

Scott Wagner represents the 28th District in the Pennsylvania State Senate.

SB76 Free Lunch Not

Scott Wagner Warns Ship Going Down

Scott Wagner Warns Ship Going Down
State Sen. Scott Wagner (right) with Joe Gale who is a candidate for Montgomery County Commissioner

State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-28) compared Pennsylvania to the Titanic with disaster just ahead at tonight’s (April 6) meeting of the Delaware County Patriots.

About 100 persons attended the event which was held at the Knights of Columbus hall in Newtown Square.

“The ship is going down and we got to do something about it,” Wagner said.

He was referring to Pennsylvania’s fiscal crisis driven by out-of-control state pensions and spiraling property taxes.

He blamed the cause on corruption giving special scorn to those on his side of the aisle. Wagner, who started three successful businesses in York County that now employ 600 persons, described how GOP leaders would hit him up for money at campaign time and that he would write ever bigger checks. Yet, he noted, the simple things that should have made life easier for himself and his employees never seemed to happen.

“They weren’t taking care of you,” he says. “They were taking care of themselves.”

This inspired him to seek office and in a special election on March 18, 2014, he ran a write-in campaign to fill the remainder of the term left vacant by late State Senator Mike Waugh.  It was the first time a write-in candidate won a state senate seat. Wagner got 10,595 votes (47.7 percent), while the endorsed Republican nominee received 5,920 votes and Democratic nominee got 5,704.

He won an election to a full-term in November.

Wagner notes that in the private sector pensions rarely reach 40 percent of the working pay. He said in the public sector in this state it is approaching 80 percent. He notes that average pay for a teacher in his school district is $88,000 for 180 days of work and they can look forward to getting $75,000 per year for the rest of their life upon retirement. This would be  at age 60 after 30 years, or earlier after 35 years.

He said that it angers him to see soldiers coming home from overseas in wheelchairs missing limbs knowing they could look forward to $800 per month in benefits when retired teachers would be getting over $6,000.

He said if things don’t change benefits and wages would soon be dollar for dollar.

“If Pennsylvania could file for bankruptcy, I’d be the first to prepare a bill,” he said.

Wagner proposed specific solutions. He said abolishing the prevailing wage mandate that requires wages for public works projects be set by the union-dominated Department of Labor and Industry rather than the market would save school districts between $200 million and $300 million annually.

He said he will not vote for a state budget unless the state gets rid of prevailing wage.

Wagner is also pushing to turn the state pension programs into 401K defined contribution types rather than the existing defined benefit packages.

He said he is also working on ways in which force give-backs in the existing benefits package.

A related issue that he is also trying to address is the cause of the corruption that led to this crisis.

He noted that he has been targeted by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO leader Rick Bloomingdale for his push for paycheck protection for union members. He said that about $750 annually is automatically deduction from each union member’s paycheck with the members having little say for which causes the money should be used.

The state’s AFL-CIO has about 800,000 members, so that’s about $600 million that winds up supporting not-so-pro labor causes like opening borders and stopping pipelines.

Wagner pointed out that Bloomingdale’s salary is over $300,000.

Wagner mentioned that he had a recent lunch with presidential hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who was notably successful in stopping union corruption in his state. Wagner said the big difference between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is that unlike in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin Republicans did not get any union money.

“Eighty percent of Republicans take money from unions,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he is far from making an endorsement but that he likes Walker

Wagner said  that he is pushing for the sale of the state’s liquor stores.

“State liquor stores aren’t making the kind of money people think they are,” he said.

In a bit of irony, Wagner is now running the Senate Republican Campaign Committee which so bitterly fought him a year ago. He said that he has his eye on several Democrat seats in the western part of the state and expect to flip four or five to the GOP in 2016. The Republicans now hold a 30-20 lead in the body but Wagner notes that four or five from the Philadelphia suburbs often end up supporting the Democrats.

It was rather daring that Wagner would make his speech on his adversaries’ turf.

Wagner did have some nice things to say about Dominic Pileggi (R-9) who he was instrumental in removing as Senate Majority Leader earlier this year.

“I think he’s a brilliant guy,” he said.

He said Pileggi’s weak spot was that his training as a lawyer kept him from seeing the steps needed to save the state.

Pileggi is running for election as a Common Pleas Court judge this fall and would leave his senate seat if he should win as expected. Wagner said he expects a more conservative senator to replace Pileggi.

Wagner got some grief in the question period regarding his support for SB 76, a bill that was tabled last fall and would have replaced the property tax with either an income or sales tax to fund schools. Many members in the audience said they feared it would mean the end of local control of schools. Wagner said the bill was not perfect, is not likely to pass as is, and needs further work.

He said property tax relief is desperately needed, however, and SB 76 gets things moving.

Wagner said he does not expect a state budget to be passed until October. He said any claims that the government is going to shut down are “bullshit” a word he repeated several times. He noted that the state is still going to be collecting taxes whether the budget is passed or not.

Also at the meeting was Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto who was seeking support for his independent run as a state Supreme Court judge. Judge Panepinto needs 17,000 signatures by July to get on the ballot. He recently made headlines for fining lawyer Nancy Raynor $1 million for her behavior during a medical malpractice case.

Wagner gave him a ringing endorsement calling him the “real deal”.

Scott Wagner Warns Ship Going Down 

 

 

 

 

 

SB76 Clears Senate Finance Committee

The Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee, Sept. 16,  approved the Property Tax Independence Act (Senate Bill 76), marking the first time the proposal has earned a positive vote from a legislative committee, says State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129).

Cox along with Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) introduced the bill in March 2013.

The legislation would completely replace school district property taxes through an expansion of the sales tax to include some currently exempt items, an increase in the sales tax rate and an increase in the state income tax. The sales tax would increase by one cent for every dollar spent on taxable items and the income tax would increase by a little more than one cent on every taxable dollar earned.

“This week’s vote was certainly a victory for everyone involved in this movement,” Cox said. “It marks the first big step in a long legislative process. This is a success we can build upon as we move forward”

 

SB76 Clears Senate Finance Committee

SB76 Clears Senate Finance Committee

SB76 Hearing Tomorrow

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a public hearing 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 30,  in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building in the state Capitol to consider the Property Tax Independence Act (Senate Bill 76), reports state Rep. Jim Cox (R-129).

A  rally is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on the front steps of the Capitol to show support for the bill.

SB76 Hearing Tomorrow

 SB76 Hearing Tomorrow

More Support For SB76

State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129) reports that 13 additional state representatives have signed onto his Property Tax Independence Act (House Bill 76) bringing the total number of supporters to 73. The bill was introduced in March with 60 co-sponsors.

A companion senate bill, Senate Bill 76, was also introduced in March and has a total of 22 co-sponsors, Cox says.

 

More Support For SB76

More Support For SB76

Cox Testifies About Property Tax Reform Proposal

State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129) testified last week about The Property Tax Independence Act (HB 76) which would replace revenues collected through school district property taxes with alternative statewide funding sources.

You can find information about the bill here.

You can watch Cox’s testimony here.

 

Cox Testifies About Property Tax Reform Proposal

Property Tax Independence Act Introduced

Rhetorically asking what Pennsylvanians would be willing to give to completely replace the school district property tax, March 12, State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129)  held up a penny at a Capitol news conference and described how the Property Tax Independence Act (House Bill 76) could accomplish this huge goal with something so small.

Cox and his colleagues were officially introducing the new Property Tax Independence Act that  would replace school property taxes with several other state revenue sources.

The legislation calls for a 1 cent increase in the state sales tax (from 6 percent to 7 percent) and a 1.27-cent increase in the state income tax (from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent). The plan also would use existing state revenues from gaming and would close special interest loopholes in the state sales tax.

More about the plan can be found on Cox’s website.

Property Tax Independence Act Introduced

Property Tax Independence Act Introduced

Improved Property Tax Independence Act

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers will unveil the new and improved Property Tax Independence Act on noon, tomorrow, March 12,   in Harrisburg, reports State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129) who is one of the bill’s sponsors.

Watch the news conference live on Tuesday at noon by visiting www.RepJimCox.com.

Cox introduced a similar bill last year that would have replaced the property tax as a means of funding schools with something less endangering to the shelters of  those who have lost income such as the unemployed or those on fixed income such as the disabled and senior citizens.

Improved Property Tax Independence Act

Improved Property Tax Independence Act

School Tax Rebates Still Being Accepted

Applications for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program are currently being accepted, reports State Rep. Jim Cox (R-129).

Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2012. The program benefits income-eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with permanent disabilities.

Renters may earn up to $15,000 annually and qualify for the program, while home owners may earn up to $35,000. Exclude 50 percent of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits when calculating income.

Residents are reminded to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Applications are due by June 30, with rebates being mailed after July 1.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms are available here.

“While the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program helps some homeowners, I remain committed to the complete replacement of Pennsylvania’s archaic school property tax system,” Cox said.

He said that those interested in learning  about the Property Tax Independence Act (House Bill 76), that he is  sponsoring should visit his webite:  http://www.repjimcox.com

The bill would completely replace the school property tax with other funding mechanisms.

School Tax Rebates Still Being Accepted

School Tax Rebates Still Being Accepted