The State House Finance Committee, yesterday, June 11, voted 13-11 to table House Bill 1776 i.e. Property Tax Independence Act (House Bill 1776), sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-129)
The bill would prohibit property taxes from being used to fund public schools, replacing them dollar for dollar with increases in the sales and income taxes.
School funding makes for about 80 percent of the property tax burden in the state and about 10,000 Pennsylvanian lose their homes annually due to an inability to pay property tax.
Basically, under the current system we are renting our homes from the state.
The motion to table was made by Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-54) and nine of the 13 supporting it were Republicans. Six of the 10 Democrats on the 25-member committee voted to send the bill on to the House for a full vote.
“This proves that property tax independence is not a partisan issue,” Cox said. “A majority of Democrats on the committee voted with us to move the bill forward. Unfortunately, we had some Republicans who voted to stall our efforts. Perhaps those lawmakers need to hear from their property taxpayers.”
The motion does not kill the bill, Cox says.
Cox said that opponents argued the bill should be amended before being approved. However, none of these members offered an amendment at today’s House Finance Committee meeting.
“I wonder about the sincerity of members who said they’d vote for the bill if it was changed, but chose not to offer any amendments,” Cox said. “In my experience in Harrisburg, that is often a tactic used to avoid an important issue.”
Other members argued that the vote should be delayed until the bill was in pristine condition for the committee’s consideration. However, Cox rightly pointed out that the committee did not hold other major pieces of legislation to the same standard. House Bill 1950, which placed a fee on Marcellus Shale, was significantly amended after being approved by the House Finance Committee but before being signed into law. Likewise, House Bill 2150, which would close a tax loophole and provide millions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations, was also amended after the House Finance Committee considered it.
“The committee seems to hold a bill that would benefit homeowners to a higher standard than it did bills that would benefit environmentalists or corporations,” Cox said. “I think constituents are left to draw the conclusion that there appears to be two different yardsticks used to measure bills before the House Finance Committee.
“Pennsylvania homeowners now have a list of lawmakers who need to be persuaded to support the Property Tax Independence Act,” Cox said about those who voted to table the bill. “I would hope the constituents of these representatives would reach out to the members and encourage them to support the bill in the future.”
House Finance Committee members who joined Cox in voting against the motion to table the bill include: Rep. Ryan Aument (R-41), Rep. John Bear (R-97), Rep. Scott Boyd (R-43), Rep. Matt Bradford (D-70), Rep. Flo Fabrizio (D-2), Rep. Adam Harris (R-82), Rep. Sid Kavulich (D-144), Rep. Rick Mirabito (D-83), Rep. Matt Smith (D-42) and Democratic Chairwoman Phyllis Mundy (D-120)