Senators: It’s time for tax relief
Two local state senators said Tuesday now is the time for action on property tax reform in Pennsylvania.
Sen. Dave Argall, R-29, and Sen. Mario Scavello, R-40, addressed what remains the most discussed issue in state government during a public workshop at Penn State University’s York campus.
“I can’t go to a gas station or a Cub Scout meeting without hearing about property taxes,” Argall said.
Scavello told several stories of elderly constituents who are all potentially losing their homes due to an inability to pay property taxes.
Maggie, he said, is a 74-year-old woman who lives in and owns the only house she has ever known.
“She grew up there and after her parents died, she now owns the property,” Scavello said. “Within the next three or four months, she is losing that home. Property taxes have gone from $400 to $6,000 for her. “
Scavello also talked of a husband and wife who retired debt-free in 1984, when property taxes were less than $500 a year. With her husband deceased and taxes now over $5,000, he said, she is choosing between food, clothing or the tax bill. She told Scavello, “I’m guilty of living too long.”
“We can’t have too many more of these meetings,” Scavello said. “We need to solve this problem and it needs to be this year. I’ll vote for any one of the plans. We need to at least help seniors if we can’t get something to finish line.”
Tuesday’s panel included school district officials, and representatives from the business and real estate sectors, among other contributors.
Tim Shrom, director of research for the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, warned that total property tax elimination could result in many taxpayers paying more, only in smaller doses.
Relying solely on income or sales taxes, he said, “would be unsustainable.”
Jim Rodkey, who leads the Pennsylvania Property Rights Association, said his group is firmly against property taxes, calling them largely unfair.
“We need to amputate this beast,” Rodkey said. “The band-aid approach has been going on far too long.”
State Rep. Fran Ryan pulled back his plan Tuesday to help eliminate the school property tax by taxing retirement income, saying he first wanted to get the support of seniors.
“I will not vote to tax seniors’ pensions,” Scavello said during the workshop.