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Pennsylvania considers eliminating school property taxes to make housing more affordable

Saturday, March 23, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Pennsylvania, property taxes, housing

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(NaturalNews) Legislators in Pennsylvania are considering a new proposal that would do away with the state's property tax scheme that currently funds government-run public schools, and replace it with slight tax increases on both sales and state income. According to the bill's advocates, property owners would benefit greatly from the change, while the two tax increases would represent a mere penny-or-so increase for every one dollar spent or earned, respectively.

Known as the Property Tax Independence Act, or House Bill 76, the bill was recently unveiled by a cohort of both Democrats and Republicans who say it is pertinent and in the best interests of Pennsylvanians to finally establish true home ownership throughout the state. After conducting a thorough analysis of the proposal during the previous legislative session, the Independent Fiscal Office determined that, financially speaking, the change would allow schools to still receive the same amount of funding, but would protect homeowners from the unfair, antiquated property tax.

"This legislation offers hope to Pennsylvania residents who aspire to truly own their homes," says Representative Jim Cox (R-129), who together with state Senator David G. Argall (R-29) unveiled the bill in early March. "Homeowners simply cannot understand how the General Assembly could continue to allow people to lose their homes through no fault of their own and drive citizens and businesses out of Pennsylvania."

Property taxes put true home ownership out of reach for many people, particularly those on fixed incomes

While Pennsylvania does not rank among the top 10 states with the highest property tax rate, the annual fee, which has been around for many years, is burdensome on millions of Pennsylvanians, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes. According to those advocating to eliminate property taxes, the levy is "outmoded, archaic, and unfair," to borrow the words of Sen. Argall.

As is commonly known, property taxes across the U.S. are perpetual, which means they are a permanent fixture of property ownership regardless of whether or not a property owner uses the public services funded by their collection. Property taxes are also generally calculated based on the assessed value of properties every year, which means they typically increase in conjunction with the rise of property values.

What this means is that individuals, families, and senior citizens on fixed incomes end up being forced to shell out many thousands of dollars every year to their local tax assessor-collector for property they already own, regardless of whether or not they use local public schools and other services funded by property taxes. Lawmakers across Pennsylvania say they continually hear from constituents who are outraged about this property tax scheme, which has resulted in many homeowners actually losing their homes.

"No tax should have the power to leave you homeless," said Rep. Cox last year during a previous unveiling of the bill. "We have to end the practice of kicking senior citizens and widows out of their homes because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes."

If H.B. 76 is passed, the state sales tax in Pennsylvania would increase from six to seven percent, which would result in a tax increase of about one penny per one dollar spent. Similarly, the state income tax would increase from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent, resulting in about a 1.27 percent tax increase for every one dollar earned, according to reports.

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