School prop­erty tax re­duc­tion or elim­i­na­tion plan be­ing cob­bled to­gether

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ford Turner

A group of state law­mak­ers seek­ing to elim­i­nate or re­duce school prop­erty taxes is “slowly mov­ing to­ward con­sen­sus” and, with 8 hours of meet­ings be­hind it, will meet at least two more times, its lead­ing mem­ber said Tues­day.

State Sen. David Ar­gall, a Schuylkill County Re­pub­li­can, said the goal was to then meet a third and fi­nal time with the state House and Se­nate party lead­ers who ap­pointed the in­for­mal group in early July.

“We have ex­plored, I think, all of the op­tions,” Ar­gall said. “Now, the task re­main­ing is to iden­tify that bill or those bills that can get to the gov­er­nor’s desk that he will sign and, most im­por­tantly, will have 102 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Se­nate.”

The much-dis­liked tax is based on the as­sessed value of prop­er­ties and pro­duces about $15 bil­lion a year to fund school districts. Law­mak­ers have tried for years to come up with tax-shift plans to cut or elim­i­nate prop­erty taxes.

House and Se­nate lead­ers of both par­ties ap­pointed the “work­ing group” in July to come up with a leg­isla­tive plan by the time law­mak­ers re­turn to Har­ris­burg later this month.

One group mem­ber, Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Northamp­ton County Demo­crat, said dis­cus­sions have run the gamut from to­tal elim­i­na­tion of the tax to re­duc­tion to the grant­ing of re­bates.

The con­cept of tax­ing retirement in­come to help elim­i­nate prop­erty taxes — put forth re­cently in a pro­posal by state Rep. Frank Ryan, a Le­banon County Re­pub­li­can — causes “a lot of angst among a lot of mem­bers,” Boscola said. But, she said, noth­ing has been ruled out.

Boscola said that while the group is not yet close to hav­ing a fi­nal plan, there is uni­ver­sal agree­ment that some­thing needs to be done.

Ar­gall has in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to get rid of prop­erty taxes in each of the last three leg­isla­tive ses­sions. The last vote came in 2015, when a 24-24 tie in the Se­nate was bro­ken by a neg­a­tive vote by then-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.

One ap­pointed group mem­ber, Re­pub­li­can state Sen. Mike Folmer of Le­banon County, said Tues­day that fam­ily is­sues and in­volve­ment with an­other leg­isla­tive is­sue forced him to drop out of the group.

But Folmer, who has been in­volved with the is­sue for years, said he would only sup­port com­plete elim­i­na­tion of the tax.

Morn­ing Call re­porter Ford Turner can be reached at 717-7837305 or [email protected]

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