The press release regarding the hearing held yesterday, May 21, for House Bill 1776 was submitted by State Rep. Jim Cox who is sponsoring the bill which would end use of the property tax as a funding mechanism for schools. Cox explains why it is good to end the property tax as a school funding mechanism and notes that his bill will not cut school funding.
The House Finance Committee (May 21) held a hearing to gather testimony about the Property Tax Independence Act (House Bill 1776) sponsored by state Representative Jim Cox (R-129). While an advocate for property taxpayers enthusiastically endorsed the bill, some representatives of special interest groups who testified were less supportive.
“I think the testimony largely reflected the current situation,” Cox said. “While homeowners stand to gain the most from this legislation and have enthusiastically supported the bill, there are business owners who see this as a way to expand their business. Of course, not every group who testified was in favor of this change because the current system is working well for them.”
David Baldinger, who serves as president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations (PCTA), an alliance of 72 grassroots Pennsylvania taxpayer advocacy groups that represent tens of thousands of taxpayers across the Commonwealth, enthusiastically supports House Bill 1776 and its companion legislation in the state Senate (Senate Bill 1400).
The Property Tax Independence Act would replace school property tax funding for schools across the Commonwealth with new state revenues.
“No tax should have the power to leave you homeless,” Cox said. “We have to end the practice of kicking senior citizens and widows out of their homes because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes.”
The Property Tax Independence Act would provide the same level of funding for schools across the Commonwealth as they currently receive through school property taxes. However, the plan would eliminate school property taxes and replace the funds with additional state revenues. Specifically, the bill would enhance collections through the state’s Personal Income Tax by raising it from 3.07 percent to 4 percent. It would also generate additional funds by closing loopholes in the state sales tax and raising the rate from 6 percent to 7 percent.
The plan would apply the 7 percent sales tax to clothing and footwear that cost $50 or more, non-prescription drugs and food items that are not part of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
In addition, it would close loopholes that currently exempt dry cleaning, funeral expenses, amusement parks and other services from the state sales tax. It would close similar loopholes that also exempt newspapers, magazines, flags, gum, candy and other goods from the sales tax.
Various special interest groups representing specific corporate sectors of the economy and levels of government also testified before the committee. The Pennsylvania Realtors Association is firmly behind House Bill 1776 and sees this plan as the necessary catalyst to revive a stagnant housing market. A testifier representing school boards, which would lose their ability to levy property taxes under the proposal, was not supportive of the plan. Another testifier representing newspapers, which would be subject to the state sales tax under the plan, also failed to wholeheartedly endorse the proposal.
“No plan to completely replace school property taxes is going to please every special interest group,” Cox said. “My goal with this legislation is to do what is right for homeowners and property taxpayers. I think the fact that property taxpayers overwhelmingly support the plan is a testament to how important it is to them.”
For additional information about the Property Tax Independence Act, including a complete list of items that would be subject to the expanded state sales tax, constituents should visit www.RepJimCox.com and click on the “Property Tax Independence Act” banner at the top of the page.
May 21 HB 1776 Hearing