By SEN DAVID G. ARGALL
Special to The TIMES NEWS
During dozens of town hall meetings throughout the six counties which I represent, including a well-attended session in Lehighton on August 11, the unfair property tax burden is one of the biggest concerns expressed by my constituents.
However, while everyone agrees that the system is broken, no one has been able to reach a consensus on the best way to fix the problem. As the current debate rages on, I believe we have a unique opportunity to finally address this issue to help give school students the funding they need and give taxpayers the much-needed reform they deserve.
The general public and the General Assembly have struggled to reach a consensus on fixing the antiquated property tax system for decades. While the problem is very complex, I believe the solution is very simple; if legislators cannot agree on a fix, we should allow taxpayers to make the determination on how to fund public education. Representative Doyle Heffley and I have introduced legislation that would allow voters to choose between the top four property tax replacement proposals in the General Assembly. The property tax proposals would be placed on the ballot, and voters would then be given the opportunity to choose between the various proposals to create a better way of funding public education.
The state budget for education, as approved on June 30, has been a contentious topic in recent months and the final effects are a matter of great debate. Many advocates have expressed concerns that reduced dollars for public education will result in school boards passing this burden on to taxpayers in the form of property tax increases. Many others have pointed out that when, in the past, the state sent large increases in state funding to school districts, those districts still raised property taxes. Our proposal would allow taxpayers to alleviate this local property tax burden by making the decision on how our schools are funded.
This solution would give taxpayers a stronger seat at the table in determining how our schools should be funded. Whether the tax dollars come from property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, or some other source, we must never forget that public dollars belong to the taxpayer, and they should be able to make their voices heard in this important debate. Our legislation would allow taxpayers to make their voices heard loud and clear through the touch of a button at the polls.
I would encourage all state residents to contact their local legislators to urge them to support this proposal to give taxpayers the power to create the kind of change that Harrisburg has failed to provide for decades. Creating real change often requires drastic action, and Representative Heffley and I are hopeful this proposal will finally bring the kind of positive change that Pennsylvanians deserve.