I have been contacted by many residents in your publication area regarding my stance on an amendment that would attempt to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania, and I would like to set the record straight regarding my vote against this legislation.I look forward to the day when I can cast my vote in favor of legislation that will truly eliminate school property taxes and permanently address Pennsylvania's school funding crisis. Unfortunately, the amendment in question would not achieve those goals and contained several fatal flaws, which would expose the bill to future legal and constitutional challenges for years to come. Knowingly endorsing a plan that contains these kinds of issues would not be the most effective way to represent the people of the 100th District.
The biggest problem I had with the proposal was the fact that it included a period where constituents would pay double taxes in the form of an increased sales tax while still paying their full property taxes. Those residents who are already struggling to afford their property taxes would have been especially impacted during this period when the tax shift would double their taxation.
Additionally, the amendment did not clearly define what would and would not be taxed. These important decisions would be left in the hands of the Department of Revenue under the control of Gov. Ed Rendell. I am uncomfortable leaving questions about billions of dollars in revenue up to a governor who has shown time and again that he cannot be trusted with our tax dollars.
When my friends and neighbors call for the elimination of property taxes, they have told me they want to eliminate taxes on homesteads and farmsteads. This legislation, however, would allow multi-million dollar businesses, including casinos and shopping malls, to exist property tax free. The shift to higher sales tax would also exempt many business-tobusiness transactions, something that must be examined carefully. In this situation, it would eventually be our Commonwealth's families who would end up funding the bulk of our education expenses, leaving many businesses with a greatly reduced and inequitable tax burden.
Finally, the question of debt assumption is one that cannot be avoided. This amendment calls for the assumption of all of the school debt across the Commonwealth, including $3 billion of debt for the School District of Philadelphia. Therefore, residents of the 100th District would be asked to assume debt and pay for poor fiscal decisions made by other school districts. I do not believe that our residents want to pay for football stadiums and Taj Mahal-like schools in other districts. Each constituent wants to see adequate funding within their own school district to ensure that their children are given a quality education at an affordable price.
The defeat of this amendment does not mean the end of property tax elimination; it simply means a reevaluation of the best method to realize fair school funding. As we work to eliminate property taxes, we need to be sure that we do it in a manner that will be successful and not failing due to court challenges.
I have already spoken with the author of this amendment and have begun to work with him to resolve my questions and concerns with this proposal. Correcting the deficiencies of the bill and preventing future legal challenges will help it to succeed in the future. There is no room for error. Resolving our tax issues and implementation of a fair method of taxation is crucial, but we should proceed with care so that we are making the best decisions for our children and for Pennsylvania's families.
Bryan Cutler State Representative