Give Argall's property tax bill a chance
Oscar Wilde famously declared that second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience. Here's hoping that the adage also applies to property taxes.
Pennsylvanians have been wed far too long to an archaic funding system for public schools that serves neither education nor taxpayers.
Now some legislators hope that, in the short time remaining this year for legislative business, hope for reform will triumph over the long-standing experience of property tax bills going to legislative committees to die.
The current version of a sweeping property tax reform bill has been sitting in a Senate committee for more than 17 months, even though its proponents claim it would pass if it made it to the Senate floor for a vote.
State Sen. David Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican, is a main sponsor of Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate school property taxes and replace the money with state revenue generated by an increase in the personal income tax and sales tax, along with ending exemptions on sales taxes for some items.
There are multiple reasons to vastly diminish or eliminate the local school property tax. It guarantees vast disparities in education funding from district to district. Because schools, municipal and county governments all rely on property taxes and schools take the biggest share, non-school government services are adversely affected. The state has not mandated reassessments, so property values are inaccurate relative to actual conditions, and heavy property tax burdens often fall on the people least able to bear them.
Argall, believing the bill can pass, told the online site Pennsylvania Independent he is looking for an end-run around the committee. One possibility is attaching it to another bill; another is a rarely used parliamentary maneuver called a discharge resolution to force the bill to the floor.
Both are problematic, but not to the same degree as property taxation.
If Argall decides not to employ the politically risky techniques to extricate the bill from committee, he at least should use them to extract a promise from lawmakers that his bill will get a floor vote in the next session of the Legislature.