The Pyramid Impact of Property Taxation

I was recently reading a report on the impact of applied business to business sales tax transactions and saw an interesting diagram demonstrating how these multiple layers of taxation affect the cost to the final consumer (here’s a link to that report: link).

The same principles apply to property taxation.

Most of us see property taxation only through the actual property tax bill we receive annually without thinking about how the property tax is also inflating the cost of every thing we do…every good we purchase and every service we use.

Here’s the chart from the sales tax impact booklet:

Property Tax Pyramid

Let’s apply this to our normal purchases by looking at something as simple as purchasing a loaf of bread.

It all starts with the farmer who grows the wheat.  When the land on which that wheat is grown is taxed it impacts the cost of the wheat that is sold to the baker but’s let’s also remember that the wheat doesn’t magically appear and grow on the farmers land.  The land must be cultivated and the seed to grow the wheat must be purchased.  That will take equipment and the raw material necessary to turn that land into a field of wheat.  Everything the farmer purchases to do just that comes from a supplier who is also paying a property tax, so the price the farmer is paying for those things is impacted by the increasing property taxes.

The farmer provides the raw material for the ingredients necessary to bake the bread but just as the wheat doesn’t magically appear on a farmer’s land, the final product also doesn’t magically show up at the bakery.  It must be shipped and a portion of the cost involved in a shipping company is impacted by the application of a property tax.

The baker, or manufacturer of the bread, needs more than just the wheat to produce a loaf of bread.  There are other ingredients involved and the likelihood of those separate ingredients coming from multiple farms is an obvious conclusion.  However, it’s not just the ingredients for the bread.  The bread must be packaged and the packaging is coming from another business paying a property tax.  Those little twist ties that seal the bag maintaining the necessary freshness and all the items necessary to protect that product when packing it for shipping are all coming from some business that is paying a property tax.  The cost of that will be realized in the final cost charged to the distributor.

So now the loaf of bread must, once again, go through the shipping process to go from the baker to the distributor.  That will incur another inflation of cost on the final product as a result of the property taxes applied to the distributor.  But let’s not forget that the distributor also has other costs and everything they purchase or every service they use is coming from another business that is paying a property tax.

From the distributor, the product finally arrives at the retailer which is also paying a property tax which will add another layer of cost to the final product before the consumer picks up that loaf of bread, takes it to the register before finally getting that loaf of bread home for consumption.

The point is a simple point but yet it evades most people.  We can complain all we want about the cost of a loaf of bread but let’s not forget the role that property tax has played in making that loaf of bread more expensive.

Let’s also not forget that it is not just the loaf of bread….it’s everything you purchase…every service you use….it’s all seeing an inflation of final cost because of the property tax itself and in most cases it’s seeing the application of multiple layers of property taxation applied to the final cost of that product.

As we enter another back-to-school season, we are once again hearing about the need of donations of school supplies for our children attending our public schools which are largely funding by the personal property taxes we pay on our homes.  It’s not likely that we’ll think about the multiple layers of taxation through property taxation that’s applied to those book bags, notebooks, pencils and pens, school clothing, school lunches and all the other good you’ll purchase as a result of sending your children off to school.

Paraphrasing from the sales tax booklet, multiple taxation is an undesirable outcome of the property tax imposed on business because it affects business choices of input purchases, location of jobs and investments, and organization of business structures. It favors larger organizations over smaller businesses because they can internalize certain costs where the the smaller business cannot, putting the smaller businesses at a significant cost disadvantage purely because of a distortive property tax policy. With such multiple layers of taxation along the production chain, different products and services purchased by households from different sources would be subject to varying
effective tax rates. This distorts consumer choices by penalizing the purchase of goods and services subject to higher effective tax rates.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (link), while statistics vary by area, experts estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, and this leads to higher property tax bills. Adding insult to injury, these same studies demonstrate that middle- and lower-income taxpayers are among the most often over-assessed.

These same studies also tell us that typically fewer than 5 percent of taxpayers challenge their assessments, even though the majority who do so win.  Could that have anything to do with the fact that middle and lower income households are less likely to be able to afford, both in time and resources, to fight back?  Isn’t that, in itself, a serious flaw of property taxation?   After all, I wouldn’t like to think that such a thing was actually intentional!!!!

Wouldn’t the same apply to the smaller business who most likely does not have a team of lawyers and accountants on their payroll to fight back against this injustice?

And yet let’s not miss the most critical aspect of that whole portion of this dialogue.  Not only are we paying more for the final product because there is a property tax, we are paying even more because the chances are pretty good that somewhere along that whole production cycle with it’s multiple layers of property taxation, the taxes are devised from a system that over-assesses property worth resulting in even higher prices.

Every homeowner and business who is paying taxes based on an over-assessed value of their home is paying property taxes on property they do not physically own.  When this is happening in the application of a system of multiple taxation, distorting costs at every step of the way, we need to stop and ask ourselves if it’s time to put an end to this feudalistic system of taxation.

So today, on Labor Day, as you gather with family and friends for that cookout in celebration of the labor and industry of the Pennsylvania Worker and Family take a good look at that grill and at the picnic spread.  The hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, salads, chips, sodas, beer and anything else spread out in front of you and even that grill, picnic table, canopy and bug zapper…it all cost you more than it should have thanks to the property tax and the multiple layers of taxation applied to each and every one of those items.

In the name of justice, if the property tax is unfairly being applied to middle and lower income families through over-assessment; if it has a distorting and negative impact on smaller family owned and operated businesses; if it results in paying taxes on property you don’t physically own while inflating the cost of all the goods you purchase and every service you use all based on a system where as much as 60% of properties assessed are over-assessed….how can anyone justify clinging to this archaic and harmful system of taxation?

Only total elimination of the property tax will work.  Property tax reduction schemes never work out well in the long run but there is also that moral component.

Maintaining just a portion of the property tax leaves behind a system that has not corrected the over-assessment issue, still adds multiple layers of cost to the final consumer product and will continue to more adversely impact those who can least afford it.

Maintaining even just a slight portion of the property tax, replacing that revenue by increasing other taxes, will see the continual increase in property taxes estimated by the Independent Fiscal Office to average an increase of 3.2% over the next several years making those least able to afford it even more unlikely to sustain such increases all while paying higher taxes in other areas.  It simply perpetuates the injustice of the property tax while forcing higher taxes in other areas.

 

 

Is total school property tax elimination finally a possibility?

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write for this blog.  A lot has been going on that, in the best interest of working towards the goal of the total elimination of school property taxation, has forced me to take a more stealth approach in reaching this goal.

Eliminating the school property tax is more complicated than most people realize.  It’s not just about eliminating this egregious, regressive and unfair system of taxation.  It becomes a radical shift in how we fund education.

The current system is failing at many levels.  It is not just failing, it is entirely unsustainable.  In just 18 to 20 years, according to projections from the Independent Fiscal Office, the property tax burden across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will double.  In another 10 years it will triple from the current burden.  Wages cannot sustain such dramatic growth and, as a result, the entire educational system is at risk if we continue down this path.

The boastful claim of stability that is used to defend property taxation is falling apart.  For decades that stability has created instability in other areas of our economy and now, as we continue down this path, the property tax is becoming less and less stable; even for the tax collector.

It’s always been unstable for many who have to pay this tax.  Thousands of homes have fallen victim to sheriff seizures, others have fallen victim to blight and disrepair (especially in our third class cities) and still other have fallen victim to foreclosure and bankruptcy as the growth of the unsustainable property tax have exceeded their ability to pay.

You see, eliminating the school property tax must, by necessity, also become a radical shift in education funding.  We have to find an alternate means of replacing $14.5 billion dollars of revenue through a tax shift that is as fair as possible to all concerned.  It’s not an easy task and in this age of polarized and divisive politics, it’s even harder.

It’s not impossible, it just very difficult.  The overwhelming majority seems to want property taxes eliminated but the arguments against various plans always come down to embracing elimination while expecting everyone else to pay for it.  Everyone, that is, except our own special interests.

The education of our children is a state mandated process.  It is more than just a mandate though, it’s important.  To that extent, it is our responsibility to provide for the funding necessary to support that education.  And by “our”, I mean it is everyone’s responsibility.  The tax responsibility that is education funding must be equally shared in a way that eliminates an egregious, regressive and unfair tax by replacing it with a system of taxation that better represents all of us.

At the same time, if such a thing is possible, there can’t be a my way or the highway approach to elimination.  We must be able to garner the necessary support to make this happen.  That doesn’t happen by throwing bombs fueled by divisive, spiteful and ignorant rhetoric.  We need solutions that work and solutions that can actually pass through the legislative process.

While almost anything might sound better than what we now have, finding a far more equitable way of getting it done needs to be the goal.  At the same time, finding a way with the greatest amount of legislative support from the start would seem to be a strategy that should be considered.

Well, I’m happy to say that all of the above has been considered in the latest incarnation of school property tax elimination.  It’s not that we think previous bills were actually bad bills.  Far from it and those who know me well, know that I fought hard to try try and make a previous bill work. If there was a chance of seeing them actually move through the process we’d all be right there supporting it but we have enough time invested in this to know that such a scenario is not likely to happen.   I can no longer stand in a room and tell people to fight for a bill that has lost, not gained, legislative support.

It’s not the issue itself.  The issue of property tax reform remains an important issue to most people in this commonwealth.  The issue is down to debates on the best ways to get it done.  There were many factors that played into damaging the previous bill’s ability to get across the finish line.  Rehashing those factors for the purpose of blame is futile but looking at those factors and learning from them is not.

What if we could learn from those factors and develop another way to get this done?

I’ve been working with representative Frank Ryan to approach elimination from a different direction.  In conversations that started two years ago I listened as Frank expressed his concerns about the weight of the school property tax on working families and how that dynamic is harming the entire economy of the state.  We gathered statistical information related to out-migration that clearly demonstrates that young working families are the largest percentile of people leaving this state and that they are doing so because the tax climate in Pennsylvania has become so toxic for these families.

Frank’s sentiment mirrored my own but Frank brought some nuances to the discussion that opened up my own thinking about how to best accomplish this worthy goal.  Coupled to the shrinking support for a previous elimination legislation, I became more open to looking at alternate ways to accomplish the goal of elimination.

I’ve long been frustrated by individuals who, while providing opinions I respected in other areas, remained so resistant to school property tax elimination.  Was it possible to engage these people to look at some of these nuances to provide an alternate path to school property tax elimination that, in the very least, would curb their opposition or at the very best, actually win their support?  I’ve learned that the answer to that is a resounding yes!!!

Frank Ryan began to demonstrate other ways that such a thing was possible.  Legislators who opposed previous incarnations of school property tax elimination were brought in and they shared their own concerns and added to the shape of a new direction for elimination.  He met with interests who also expressed their own concerns and this added to the shape on this new direction.  Little by little, piece by piece it was all starting to come together.

The constant pressure to release details was futile because details were changing and the path to making this happen was also evolving.  We wanted to see it fleshed out completely with as much input by the many who previously opposed us and to do so in a non-critical manner.  Those conversations proved to be invaluable to us and I’m grateful they’ve taken place providing me with more perspectives and a more in-depth understanding of the property tax issue.

Throughout this process working closely with fellow town hall presenter, Ron Boltz, was essential to me.  We continued to discuss possibilities and potentials contributing to the dialogue in a constructive fashion.  We also reached out for input from others who had worked so hard for elimination, at least those who were still speaking to us, as we began looking for a more viable way of getting this done.

And I watched in these early days as I reached out to shed some light on what was happening to see a handful of individuals firing back with exaggerated claims and  personal attacks every time we tried to present a reasonable voice on the issue.  It became counter-productive to the purpose so I took the issue underground carefully working stealth-fully with a handful of people to provide insight and thoughts as this process moved forward all while working with Frank as he endeavored inside the legislative process to turn this concept into a workable reality.

Now, I don’t want anything to think that this has been a process of just giving in to the opposition.  It hasn’t.  We’ve been firm and resolute in our passion to reach elimination in a way that is as fair as possible in providing for the replacement revenue.  We started with the understanding that no one individual has all the answers or can possibly understand all the nuances involved in such a process.  We have, in my opinion, come to a better solution with more input from others to create a better path for an elimination plan that has the greatest possibility of passing the legislative process.

We’re almost there.  A final draft proposal has been presented that will now require a few days of analysis to make sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” crossed.  Once that process is complete, the draft will be signed and it will become a bill for public scrutiny.

I’ve spent the past 10 hours going through the latest draft and with a few more language related changes, I’m fairly certain we are really just about there.  If you’ve ever sat down to read a bill of this scope and magnitude, you’ll know that this isn’t an easy process.   I don’t speak fluent legalese.  I have to read, reread and then read again each section often coupled to legal dictionary to make sure I’m grasping what this really says.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  I want this to be right.  This time, I want this bill to be “ready for prime time” right out of the starting gate.  Those who have been in this struggle for as long as I have will understand what I mean by that.

Once I finish this post, I’m going to try and get some sleep but I’m fairly certain that my head will still be spinning and thoughts of the possibility of total school property tax elimination dances in my head.

I’ll wait to hear from others doing the same but, generally speaking, I’m good with the overall bill, and I really do see this  as our best chance at realizing total school property tax elimination.  I find that prospect to be very exciting.

I am not naive enough to think that everyone is going to jump on that bandwagon.  There will be those “my way or the highway” folks.  There will be others who like elimination but only if they don’t have to contribute to the replacement revenue.  Then there will be those complaining because that’s all they know how to do; forget about contributing to solutions, just complaining about what others are doing while not doing anything to advance the issue on their own.  The most concerning to me are those who simply don’t care that the current system is unsustainable or broken.  So long as they benefit from it for right now, that’s enough.  The long term doesn’t matter.

It does, however, matter to me.  It matters that so many people face loosing their homes.  It matters to me that so many people in this Commonwealth are only one life event away from losing their homes.  It matters that maintaining the current system is putting the future of a quality education in Pennsylvania at risk and it matters to me that thousands of working families are fleeing Pennsylvania to find a better place to live for themselves and their families.  It matters to me that it is becoming harder to attract productive businesses to the Commonwealth without some form of Corporate welfare often paid for by increasing the tax burden of other property owners.

It matters to me that the current system of education funding through property taxation has been proven to be unfair, regressive and cruelly egregious.  That the only system in place intended to make the process more fair, the costly county-wide assessments, actually fails at what they intend to accomplish.

It matters to me that our constitutionally protected right of acquiring, possessing and protecting property is constantly trampled on in order to sustain the foul system we call the property tax; that homes can be seized and sold on auctions for pennies on the dollar denying the home-owner with just compensation and treated like a criminal because their taxes have exceeded their ability to pay.

We need more than just a solution, we need a solution that will work and can pass the legislative process.  My sense is that we have found that solution and am thrilled to continue to learn of the support we are seeing through the legislative process in getting this done.

I’m looking forward to the official release of the legislation when all of the details of this new plan can be released to the public.  Barring any unforeseen obstacles, that should happen in very short order.

So, after almost 7 months of not commenting publicly about property tax elimination with regards to any specific bill, I’m here to say that I’m proud of the work that went into this bill and grateful for the work of others who helped to get us to this point in time.

To my good friend and state representative, Frank Ryan: for me, you’ve breathed new life into the Marine Corps motto that means “always faithful”.  You promised to deliver school property tax elimination when you set your course of becoming an elected representative in our General Assembly.   I’ve watched you in that tireless battle to get this done and to keep this issue in the forefront.  It’s been much more than a promise, but far more of a commitment.

Semper Fi, my friend.  Semper Fi!

P.S.  I am sending a big shout out to my wife for her endurance throughout this process.  She has been my sounding board, my life-line and my toughest critic.  This Wednesday will be her birthday and I’m feeling pretty good about where this bill is right now…just in time for her birthday.  Happy Birthday, Sue…My light in the darkness and the love of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Can we have different paths in achieving the same goal?

Rumors and innuendos seem to prevail in today’s society.  I guess it’s not really different from other times except that, with the advent of social media, the ease of spreading such rumors and innuendos seems to accelerate the process of misinformation.

As readers of this blog know, I am a long time advocate of HB/SB76 for the elimination of the school property tax.  I still support this legislation but I am also painfully aware that we are at an impasse.  There are political realities that exist whether I like those realities or not.  One of those realities deals with three numbers: 102, 26, and 1.

In order for a bill to become law it requires the yes votes of 102 house members, 26 senate members and the signature of the governor or, at the very least, a governor who doesn’t veto the legislation.  By not signing it all, a period of time can lapse where the bill can still become law.

In looking at both the house and senate versions of 76, we are at a point in time where we have less supporting legislators than we did in 2015.  The past elections saw some of our supporters choose to leave office or to lose their elections.

In the fight for  the house and senate versions of 76, I have invested my time, energy and resources in trying to get this done.  So have many others.  In doing so, I’ve learned a lot in the process.  That’s not to say I went into this struggle as a naive individual with little knowledge of the political systems and the way things work in government.  What I learned was some of the nuances within that system and while there’s is much that could be improved in the way government works, until changes can be made to that system we have to work within the system in place.

I’ve always accepted that the struggle for school property tax independence was going to be a hard fight.  After all, we weren’t just looking to eliminate this onerous tax, we were trying to change the way we fund public education. I understood that it would have to be a multi-faceted approach that was going to involve the skills and talents of many people.

As the struggle to free ourselves from the unfair, egregious and cruel property tax.  Many new faces came into effort.  Each of them brought new perspectives and different ways of getting things done.  That created some internal issues because not everyone agreed and rather than deal with those issues face to face, it was dealt with through backroom banter that created unnecessary division and tensions.

To be honest, I haven’t always agreed with the way things were being done but, as I said, I learned a lot in this process and one of the things that I had reinforced was the simple fact that I don’t have all the answers and I can’t possibly understand all the rationale behind a decision to do something a particular way.  Rather than allowing my lack of understanding of particular facets in this struggle, I felt it was much better to engage with these individuals, allowing them to explain their positions and then explaining my own so, in that way, we could both better understand where each of us were coming from.

I even spent eight hours in a seminar on political activism so I could better understand the direction that some were taking.  It gave me much better perspective and a more solid understanding of some of those nuances.

I’ve done the same with the opposition to this legislation.

I’m a political junkie.  I’ve been that way for a long time.  In the process, I’ve followed certain organizations and the voices of those in these organizations and had a certain amount of respect for their opinions and positions.  I didn’t always agree with them, but they did produce substantive arguments on their positions.

As I began to publicly push for 76, some of these people didn’t support elimination.  It was incredibly frustrating for me.  At times, some of that opposition made me extremely angry but rather than resort to simple character assassination through name-calling, I tried to reach out and understand their opposition so I could address their opposition talking points.

That’s how this blog went from talking about a variety of issues to becoming focused so heavily on school property tax elimination.  The majority of the blog postings here take the opposition talking points to lay out an argument of how and why I disagreed with their position using outside data and research to make my points.  In that process, I learned to hone my skills in debate.

From the beginning, I would look at opposing legislators and then study them to find out what issues were most important to them.  I then would take the property tax issue and adapt the support of that issues to develop talking points that addressed their particular interests.  Through all of that, I learned more about just how egregious this property tax problem really is.  As horrible as losing your home to a tax that exceeds your ability to pay is, the property tax spreads its tentacles into so many other aspects of our economy where its negative impact hinders Pennsylvania’s economic future.

In returning to the blogs, I’m going to admit that it wasn’t always easy to try and deal with the opposition with reason and logic especially when aspects of that opposition has come internally.  Like anyone else, I get frustrated and angry at some of the things that are said.  The easy path is to lash out publicly through character assassination or to work behind the scenes to destroy the character of the other individual in efforts to silence their voice.  The more difficult path is to try and maintain a level of reason while keeping the focus on the substance of the debate rather than on personality differences or opinions about methodology.

Unfortunately, sometimes when you try and use the reason and logic through the substantive debate approach, you encounter individuals who have no real desire to consider different perspectives and approaches.  They take the “my way or the highway” approach and become so confrontational that it becomes more and more difficult to work with them or to even engage further in reasonable debate.  You reach a point where you realize that future interactions with that individual on this subject is counter-productive and a strain on the valuable time, energy and resources of the effort.  It’s not an easy decision to make but sometimes, the decision to sever ties becomes necessary.

Throughout this period of time, It has been my pleasure and honor to work with Ron Boltz in doing town halls across the commonwealth.  During those town halls we have faced the opposition and one of the greatest honors of that process has been the ability to engage opposing views without blowing a gasket and losing it in front of the room.

Some of those exchanges have been interesting to say the least.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to give the impression that, in the exchange of differences, we simply back off or go soft.  Remaining firm and resolve is essential to this advancing this issue but it is possible to display such firmness and resolve without throwing temper tantrums in both the public arena or through the social media.

A confrontational exchange between individuals is going to be a part of this process.  When you engage in such an exchange publicly, your conversation goes far beyond your exchange with the individual.  How you respond to someone being unreasonable in the public arena is critical because you can change the minds of others who are listening or others who are reading that exchange.

Nine times out of ten, if you resort to character assassination in an attempt to win your argument, you lost that debate in the public arena.  You appear to be the unreasonable person in that exchange and you do so by your own actions.  And believe me, I understand that resorting to character assassination might appeal to certain elements of those on the same page as you and it might motivate them.  You have to remember that, at the same time, you are alienating some who you are trying to convince concerning the validity of your argument.

Something I learned in high school.  It’s always been important to me.  The quote goes like this:

“You haven’t converted a man because you have silenced him!”

The quote comes from John, Viscount Morley on Compromise, 1874.  It comes from the publication series Great Ideas of Western Man.  My own experience in life demonstrates that this is an absolute fact.  Using power and oppression in attempts to silence the voice of others is self-gratification but such forced silence has toppled some of the greatest civilizations in history as others see these oppressive means as the tyranny that it is and begin to rise up against it.

The point is simple.  If you can’t defend your actions on reason and substance but must, instead, turn and character assassination in the attempts to silence to voice of others, you expose an Achilles heel that opens the door for your own failures in accomplishing the goal.

When it comes to the big picture of school property tax elimination, we have ended one two-year legislative session and are about to move into another.  Any legislation that hasn’t gone through the legislative process in the past two-year session must either be re-introduced or it goes the way of the dodo.

My understanding is that both HB and SB 76 will be re-introduced.  I suspect there will be some movement on debate for senior only exemptions or some push for homestead only exclusion.  At the same time, a new piece of legislation is being introduced by representative Frank Ryan (District 101) that calls for the complete elimination of the school property tax creating a new path to achieve the same end goal.

That new plan has already garnered some attention, both negative and positive.  Much of the negative response is premature.  It’s based on speculation devoid of details and, in my opinion, that debate becomes counter-productive.

The proposed legislation is still in the drafting process and it will go through some changes and see some additions as discussions with the Legislative Review Bureau continues.  Releasing a premature draft of the bill at this point in time, although some have demanded it, is irresponsible.

The last thing we need is multiple versions of a bill to become part of the debate process where those incorrect drafts of proposed legislation become part of the future debates on the bill.  Let’s wait and do it right this time.

Once the bill is completely through this process, we will have more than ample time to debate the merits of the legislation just as we have done with previous bills.  What I can and will say is that the new proposed legislation gets us to complete elimination right out of the starting gate and it is therefore worthy of our consideration before promoting blind condemnation simply because it’s not 76.

For me, the goal is complete elimination and how we get there is important.

I know Frank Ryan personally.  He became a close family friend long before he was elected to office.  He’s also a trusted and accomplished certified CPA with knowledge about economic matters that many of us, quite honestly, do not have.  I’ve watched Frank Ryan as a freshman legislator and I’ve seen him make arguments about legislation that have impressed me.

Those who know me best know that I am very Jeffersonian in my political thought and there’s one quote from Jefferson that has influenced me in so many ways.  Thomas Jefferson, when asked the purpose of the Declaration of Independence stated, that it’s purpose was:

To place before mankind the common sense of the subject in words so clear and firm as to command their assent.

I’ve seen Frank Ryan make these words come alive in his legislative debates and in his public discourse.

Having had considerable conversations with Frank Ryan about the property tax issue, I know where he stands on this issue and I know that those extensive conversations have become a part of his legislation.  Those conversations have also included Frank’s input from others and we’ve had lengthy conversations with regards to considering opposition talking points.  Nothing that Frank has suggested to me is something that raises very any concerns with me about this proposed legislation.

After all, the end goal is complete elimination and whatever is introduced must be compared to what we actually have at this point in time.  What we have is terribly unfair, absolutely regressive and is resulting in people losing their homes as the tax continues to exceed their ability to pay.

I still support the house and senate versions of 76 but I also accept the political reality of 102, 26 and 1.  If something happens where 76 actually advances and we can drum up the votes to make it happen, my support of 76 remains.  The possibility of an alternate path to achieve the same goal is, in my opinion, a good thing and I support that as well.

As I already stated, I had considerable input into the concept of the creation of this bill and I know that Frank has brought other aspects into this consideration including the comprehensive work and advocacy for 76.  He has considered the obstacles to that legislation in trying to craft an alternative path that could possibly remove some of those obstacles.

When the bill is officially released by the Legislative Review Board, we’ll have more detailed conversations about the merits of the legislation, until then, a new path to elimination, with HB and SB 76 faltering and losing legislative support, as we must admittedly accept as a political fact, this new legislation becomes a way to keep this dialogue open providing an alternate path to the same end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future of School Property Taxation

The Future of School Property Taxation

Note:  The following article originates from the Pennsylvania Property Rights Association (PAPRA).  For more information on PAPRA and to read other articles of this nature, visit www.papra.org.

 

Annual increases based on the current $14 billion in school property taxation adjusted for an annual 3.5% annual increase

Year Increase from

previous year

Total State-wide Property Tax Accumulated increase from present
2019 $490,000,000 $14,490,000,000 $490,000,000
2020 $507,150,000 $14,997,150,000 $997,150,000
2021 $524,900,250 $15,522,050,250 $1,032,050,250
2022 $543,271,758.75 $16,065,322,008.75 $1,575,322,008.75
2023 $562,286,270.31 $16,627,608,279.06 $2,137,608,279.06
2024 $581,966,289.77 $17,209,574,568.83 $2,719,574,568.83
2025 $602,335,109.91 $17,811,909,678.74 $3,321,909,678.74
2026 $623,416,838.76 $18,435,326,517.50 $3,935,323,517.50
2027 $645,236,428.11 $19,080,562,945.61 $4,590,559,945.61
2028 $667,819,703.10 $19,748,382,648.71 $5,258,379,648.71
2029 $691,193,312.70 $20,439,576,041.41 $5,949,572,961.41
2030 $715,385,161.45 $21,154,961,202.86 $6,664,958,122.86
2031 $740,423,642.10 $21,895,384,844.96 $7,405,381,764.96
2032 $766,338,469.57 $22,661,723,314.53 $8,171,720,234.53
2033 $793,160,316.07 $23,454,883,630.54 $8,964,880,550.60
2034 $820,920,927.07 $24,275,804,557.61 $9,785,801,477.67
2035 $849,653,159.52 $25,125,457,717.13 $10,635,454.637.19
2036 $876,391,020.10 $26,001,848,737.23 $11,511,845,657.29
2037 $910,064,705.80 $26,911,913,443.03 $12,421,910,363,09
2038 $941,916,970.51 $27,853,830,413.54 $13,363,827,333.60
2039 $974,884,064.47 $28,828,717,478.01 $14,338,711,398.07
2040 $1,009,005,111.73 $29,837,722,589.74 $15,397,716,509.80
2050 $1,421,671,028.70 $42,047,743,676.81 $28,047,743,676.81
2058 $1,937,909,710.01 $57,306,758,567.55 $42,306,758,567.55

 

According to the Independent Fiscal office, if trends stay the same, the school property tax will increase state-wide by 3.5% annually.  3.5% isn’t an alarming number.  3.5% of $14 billion doesn’t sound threatening. It actually sounds sort of sustainable but is it really?

The above chart demonstrates how this translates into real numbers.  Let’s start by understanding that it requires tax increases to generate this revenue.  In the past 20 years, you didn’t see a SUT increase or a PIT increase to generate additional revenue because those taxes generate natural growth.  The property tax does not.  It must be raised to achieve the revenue it wants.  That is the problem with the Property Tax.  In order to sustain the revenue growth that is wanted from the Property Tax, the statewide property tax burden on property owners must increase.

To the opponents of eliminating the property tax because it’s a spending problem, it’s not that I disagree with that sentiment, but by fighting against elimination you are fighting for tax increases.  Other opponents who use the robbing from Peter to pay Paul argument are also ignoring that the property tax requires increases to sustain its revenue demands.

Certainly, if we shifted from a Property Tax to a blended Income and Sales Tax, initially we would see a dollar for dollar shift of taxation.  That’s only the immediate change.  The long term is something very different.  By shielding the property tax, next year it will cost you more, and the next year even more and it will keep up demanding more and more until there isn’t enough to sustain it and then it all collapses, possibly even taking the economy of the entire state down with it.

The Independent Fiscal office already stated that there is an initial cost benefit to shifting to the PIT and SUT tax, they did not, however, explain the long-term savings by eliminating the additional tax burdens that we see each and every year.  By shifting today, we eliminate every future increase of the property tax burden on taxpayers across the Commonwealth.

We know that, through the PIT and SUT tax, we can generate additional revenue for our schools and we can do so naturally without the need for tax increases.  We can not do that with the property tax.

It is only when we look to the future. if we follow the trends, that we begin to see the absolutely unsustainability of the path that we are on.

We are currently at $14 billion in revenue that came from tax increases.  Using the 3.5% average increase established through historical trends, according to the Independent Fiscal office, we can chart where will be in the future and that future, as the chart reveals is absolutely unsustainable.

By 2039, in just 20 years, we will add another $14.34 billion dollars to the tax burden of property owners.   At that point in time, the additional annual burden to tax-payers in the state will grow by more than $1 billion dollars a year so that, in just 12 years, we will add another $14 billion dollars for a total property tax burden of more than $42 billion dollars., Future annual statewide property taxes increases will exceed $1.5 billion dollars a year, the following year.  In 8 more years, we will add another $14 billion to the property tax burden and future annual statewide property tax revenue increases will exceed $2 billion dollars.  In just 40 years, the property tax burden will quadruple increasing more than 400% from where they are now.

If you think property taxes are a senior problem, look down the road to your own future.  A 3.5% does not yield a stagnate annual increase.  The increase grows incrementally each year.

If you are 50 now, by the time you are 70, the statewide School Property Tax burden will double.  Will you be able to sustain that?  Will your wages increase enough to provide for that?  Remember that you’ll be in your retirement age?  Will you even be able to retire if you want to stay in your home.

If you are 40 now, by the time you reach 70, the property tax burden will more than triple.

If you are 30 years old, by the time you are 70, your property tax burden will have quadrupled.

If you are looking at a newborn, they’ll be 40, probably hoping to raise their family by establishing roots in their communities.  What chance do you think they’ll have will they have to do so here in Pennsylvania?

According to the census Bureau, 20 years ago the median household income was about $42,000 in Pennsylvania.  Today, according to the Census Bureau, the median household income in Pennsylvania is $56,907.  That’s a 27% increase.

It didn’t double during that time period and it’s not likely to do so in the next 20 years.  Can a 27% increase in household income over the next 20 years sustain a 100% increase in the property tax burden?

3.5 Projected grwoth of property Tax Burden

This is the future the opponents of school property tax elimination have embraced!  This is the results of an annual 3.5% increase in school property taxation.  To reach that level of revenue for 2039 we will need to see $14 billion dollars in tax increases doubling where we are now.  The statewide property tax burden will double.

What impact will this have on working families in Pennsylvania?  What impact will this have on the small business community?  What will this do to family farms in Pennsylvania?  What will this do to seniors on limited income?

The facts should be clear.  The path we are on cannot be sustained.  This places homeownership in jeopardy; threatens the future of small businesses and our family farms; puts our schools and the futures of our teachers in peril and is a threat to the entire economy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

During an PSBA interview with the Independent Fiscal Office, the IFO explained that by shifting to a PIT and SUT tax to replace all school property taxes in Pennsylvania could see a 3.4% increase in revenue.  In other words, based on previous trends, we would generate additional income to our schools that is .1% less than what they are getting through the school property tax.

Not factored into this equation is the employment benefit of shifting to this system of taxation.  We know that Property Tax Exemptions (Keystone Opportunity Zone) for the small business community works for as long as the exemption stays in place.  Unfortunately, when that exemption expires, many small businesses that take advantage of the program find themselves unable to sustain the change in their business when the KOZ expires.

The revenue necessary to provide for the KOZ comes from increasing the property tax burden on all other property owners.  The same is true for other programs like LERTA (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance) and Clean and Green.

By eliminating the school property tax, we also eliminate the additional burdens we levy on other property owners to provide for these programs.  By providing school property tax exemption for all businesses and making those exemption permanent the entire state becomes a Keystone Opportunity Zone without shifting that burden to other taxpayers.  Because there is no expiration of that exemption, those businesses will remain in our communities.  This will generate more business in Pennsylvania which will translate into more permanent jobs.  That will increase the revenue from the PIT.  It will also provide more disposable income for families which translates into purchasing power which will generate more SUT revenue.

By shifting to PIT and SUT taxes, without the need for future increases to provide the same revenue to our schools, all of Pennsylvania benefits without the need for these dramatic increases we see in future property taxation.  We can sustain future education funding without crushing our economic future.

The extended benefits of making Pennsylvania a better place for small business growth reaches beyond providing for education funding.  More jobs in Pennsylvania will also increase the PIT revenue currently used in our General Budget.  It will also increase the SUT revenue.  Remember, only the increase in the PIT and SUT tax goes towards education funding, the exiting 3.07% of the PIT and the existing 6% of the Sales Tax would still go towards the revenue that funds the rest of the State’s budget.

This additional revenue could go towards other important social programs, reduce the state debt burden and provide for other essential needs in the commonwealth.  It could be used for providing for other education needs by increasing the State portions of the Basic Education Funding Formula or steered towards reducing college costs in the State System of Higher Education.  Wherever that revenue would go, instead of constantly looking for new things to tax to generate more revenue, we provide more revenue but eliminating a bad tax policy….school property taxation for education funding.

The Inherent Dangers of the Democrat Socialists of America (DSA)

As we pay attention to what’s happening around us, a series of videos have begun appearing from Project Veritas exposing something terribly wrong with the administrative state, this largely un-elected and apparently un-manageable myriad of employees within the deep state of civil servants who seem have forgotten what that title of civil servant means.

With just two videos released so far, it is clear that our administrative body of government has been infiltrated by a Socialist front which is using their positions to break the law, specifically, the Hatch Act of 1939, advanced as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”, whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government from using their positions to engage in specific forms of political activism. The act specifically prevents federal employees from membership in “any political organization which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government.”

The Democrat Socialists of America and their counterpart, the National Socialist movement advocates for a form of government so alien to the principles of our Constitutional Rule of Law as to be un-American.  It is, in short, treasonous.

And yet, we seem to live in a political environment where we simply turn a blind eye to such open and blatant activity where these actions see little to no consequences.  That individuals would feel so secure in their positions where they are abusing their role as civil servants to the extent of advancing the tenants of socialism from within our own government while bragging about breaking the law without consequence should be alarming.

In these videos, hired employees boast about their actions while laughing about the fact that they can’t be fired for their actions.  They claim that their actions are unknown to their supervisors even though they admit to writing their socialist propaganda messages during work hours and are skirting the laws by waiting to send out their propaganda emails after work hours, as though this somehow prevents them from prosecution.

They admit to using deliberate stalling tactics in the enforcement of official government policy to undermine the law knowingly adding to the cost of government and business.

And all that’s just from the first two videos.

We can delude ourselves into thinking this is just a small faction of civil servants but look at the national political landscape and you will see the rise of the Democrat Socialist Party in advancing candidates and we see something drastically different.  This is not a small faction but a powerful and well-funded effort in the fundamental transformation of our nation from a Constitutional Republic to a Socialist mandate.

The Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, wholeheartedly embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old socialist who stunned the political world when she unseated a 10-term incumbent New York Democrat, calling the democratic socialist “the future of our party.”
“I have three kids, two of whom are daughters. One just graduated college, one who is in college, and they were both texting me about their excitement over Alexandria because she really — she represents the future of our party,” Perez said during an interview with the liberal radio-show host Bill Press.

Let that sink in.  We’re not really talking about diversity here.  We are talking about identifying this candidate as the future of the Democrat Party and she’s an avid socialist.

The tactics of this “resistance” movement of the DSA (Democrat Socialists of America) is straight from the playbooks of other socialist takeovers of countries.  Using fear and intimidation tactics, the resort to infiltration and then shouting down opposing voices claiming the exercise of freedom of speech when they are, in fact, by their own actions, refusing to consent to the free speech of others.  In the real world we know that as fascism.   No extreme is to far, including launching charges of racism, homophobia, or even making false allegations in their attempts to silence the voice of anyone who disagrees with them.
The platform of the DSA includes the radical ideology of shutting down ICE (essentially abolishing any enforcement of immigration laws), shutting down all local and state law enforcement (which would necessarily mean the replacement of those agencies by a federal arm of law enforcement), and the closing of all prisons (which, they neglect to admit, would include incarceration camps controlled by the Socialists for their political enemies).

The DSA makes the claim that “At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end.”  They go out of their way to make it all sound warm and fuzzy as though this is something different.  In reality, there is nothing new and certainly nothing warm and fuzzy when the wolves are in control of the sheep and they are voting for what’s going to be on the supper table.

The promise that this new socialism will be different is a traditional characteristic of all socialists and once implemented the historical record proves one thing, it’s the same old socialism where personal liberty is stolen and we all become slaves to the state.  In America that means trampling on our protected rights and abandoning the Constitutional Rule of Law that is intended to protect everyone equally to the creation of massive protected classes in a system that will create the ultra-elite and the rest of us will experience equality through being equal in our poverty.

The Website for the Democrat Socialists of America (DSA) also boasts of being the largest socialist front in America and the Democrat Party is openly embracing them.

Abraham Lincoln once warned “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.”
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The Democrat Socialist of America have the poison pill to accomplish that suicide and now it’s up to the people of America to determine the future of our nation.  We can collectively take a knee and remain silent as we die by suicide or we can stand up, exposing and refusing this poison.

James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas videos offer me hope that we will take a stand.  I pray that it gives you such hope as well, not just hope in silence but the courage you need to take a stand for Liberty.

To watch the Project Veritas videos go to https://www.projectveritas.com/

More videos in this series are coming and you’ll want to stay informed in this important exposé.

Theft by Taxation

nor shall private property be taken or applied to public use, without authority of law and without just compensation being first made or secured.

Article 1, Section 10 of the PA Constitution

 

The Pennsylvania Constitution is supposed to be the law of the land.  When a law is passed that violates the Constitution, those who passed that law are guilty of violating the Constitution…guilty of violating the law and their oath of office.

Throughout the history of the fight for property tax elimination we have pointed out egregious violations of our rights to property that exist because of the Property tax.  We have pointed out that 10,000 people lose their homes to the property tax each year.  It’s time to consider what happens during this property seizures and eventual sale on the tax auction block

A recent article in the Times Leader (https://www.timesleader.com/news/715302/luzerne-countys-september-back-tax-sale-roster-at-2545-properties) reported on an recent tax auction that took place in Luzerne County on August 8 of this year.  It demonstrates clearly what takes place. It listed seven of 81 properties that were sold on the suction giving some details of the sales.  As you read this please note the actual sale price contrasted to the actual assessed value of the property and remember what Article 1, Section 10 says.

  • Wan C. Ho, of Queens, New York, representing Wilkeshire RE LLC —$20,000 for a 3,000-square-foot, double-block assessed at $80,300 on Hillside Avenue in Edwardsville.
  • Daniel Cruz, of Wilkes-Barre — $22,000 for a 2,300-square-foot house in the 200 block of Academy Street in Wilkes-Barre assessed at $100,900.
  • Michelle Hernandez, of Queens, New York — $26,000 for a 1,350-square-foot house on Spruce Street in Wilkes-Barre assessed at $60,900.
  • Karina Broes, of Randolph, New Jersey — $30,000 for a 1,500-square-foot house assessed at $117,600 on Pond Hill Mountain Road in Conyngham Township.
  • Antonio Mannino, of Hanover Township, representing Puma Motors Inc. — $39,000 each for a vacant 0.23-acre lot assessed at $10,000 on Buck Birch Lane in Buck Township and a 2,170-square-foot house assessed at $174,500 on Foothills Drive in Butler Township.
  • George Karosa, Wyoming — $42,000 for a 1,544-square-foot house in the 100 block of Slocum Street in Forty Fort assessed at $104,000.

Not a single one of these properties reached the actual assessed value of the property.

The article states that the total price generated from the auction of 81 properties came to $642,781.  The total revenue from the seven listed properties comes to $179,000 of the $642,781 leaving $463,781 for the remaining 74 properties.  Simple math tells us that the average revenue generated from the remaining properties comes to less than $6,300 per property.

What happened in Luzerne County is not an exception to the rule.  It is commonplace when homes are seized and sold at public auction for tax delinquency.

The property owners faces the distinct potential of loosing everything.  The only real concern at these tax auctions is to meet the delinquent property taxes due on the property with no regard of just compensation to the actual owner of that property being first made or secured.

The property owner is treated as a criminal simply because the they couldn’t keep up with the tax demands against their property even though those tax increases often exceed inflationary growth of wages.  A serious illness, the death of a spouse, a downturn in the economy that results in a temporary job loss can all lead people to find themselves unable to meet the demands of property taxation.  There are many reasons that people can fall behind on their property taxes because the property tax is not based on ability to pay.  It is based on an arbitrary value placed on a property where the homeowner really has little, if any, say.  While the assessed value is often sold to us being the fair market value of a property, that is simply not the case.  Fair market pricing should be determined on a price agreed upon by a willing seller and a willing buyer.

In the case of a tax auction, the actual property owner has no say.  The property is sold based on a price agreed upon by a buyer and the government, not the homeowner.  Their voice is removed from that process.  There is no consideration of the property owners investment in that property or in the equity acquired in that home.

I said that the home-owner is treated like a criminal but that’s not really true.  In other criminal proceedings, the accused has protected rights not afforded to the property owner. In other criminal proceedings just penalty for a crime is not to be excessive.  The penalty is to be equated to the crime.

That is hardly what happens in the tax seizure and sale of property.  The penalty goes far beyond the crime by taking something completely from the property owner without any real consideration of just compensation.

Adding insult to injury, the property tax impacts everything we do.  That includes the goods we purchase, services we need and even the entertainment we pursue.  Property taxes levied on businesses are passed on to the consumer resulting in higher prices.  As our property tax continues to increase above the rates of inflation, it impacts the prices of everything because all of those businesses are paying the property tax as well.

We often here that eliminating the property tax for business is a huge tax savings for them but we rarely consider how the property tax on those businesses impacts the cost of the things we use.

Looking at a local business in the county where I live that sells something as simple as Ice Cream, I found that their total property tax is $21,624.  Now remember that the average property tax where I live is about $2,400.

A large Ice Cream Cone sells for $2.49.  In order to sell enough large Ice Cream Cones to meet the tax obligation they would have to sell 8,684 cones and that’s not factoring in the cost of materials, employees and other operating expenses.  If $2.00 of that cone covers all other expenses they would have to sell 41,131 ice cream cones to pay the property tax without accumulating a single penny in business profit.  That’s also being generous.  I would assume that it costs more than $2.00 in other operating expenses but I’m just trying to generate an example of how this impacts the cost of the things we use.

Adding insult to injury, if this property was located just 1/2 mile to the east it would be in a different school district where it’s property taxes would be $8,500 more which is roughly about 30% more in taxes.   They would have to sell an additional 3,414 ice cream cones again with not factoring in materials, employees and other operating expenses.  Allowing for the $2.00 in other operating expenses per cone, they would have to sell 61,478 ice cream cones to meet the tax obligation without earning any profit.  The differing property taxes creates an unequal business opportunity which might help to explain why it’s so difficult to attract businesses to the higher taxed school district.

The local Walmart, the business that so many love to hate, pays about $250,000 in property taxes.  If they were just a few blocks away in a different school district, those property taxes would total $353,919, an increase of more than $100,000.

To refuse to accept the notion that property taxes make everything we do cost more is simply ridiculous.

So, while the property tax makes everything more expensive, our property tax continue to increase continues to exceed above the rate of inflation making it harder for people support local business because they have less revenue to spend and the things they purchase will cost more because of the property tax.

You see, when people make the claim that business can afford to pay more, they are foolish enough not to understand that they really don’t pay more because that cost will be passed on to us and therefore, we pay more, not just more in property taxes but more for everything.

The clothing you wear, the food you eat, the medications you need, the legal services you seek, and yes, even that ice cream cone with which you treat yourself…it all costs more because of the property tax.

Then, if you find yourself in a position where you can no longer afford the property tax, they’ll take your home away from you and sell it in an auction where you will most likely lose your investment in that home all the while with supporter of property tax applauding the stability of the income tax as a revenue source for government.  That government tax collection stability is always predicated on the instability it causes for people who have to pay it.

It stifles job creation and job growth because it stifles business relocation to the state and because the property tax varies so much from school district to school district we find that establishing business in higher taxed but lower economic third class cities are actually driving business to locate out of those districts making them more reliant on homes rather than business to meet the tax wants.

In the latest report from the Independent Fiscal Office on Property taxation we find that $7.048 billion of the property tax comes from owner occupied homes.  More than 40% of that, or $3.087 billion, comes from seniors over the age of 60 even though seniors over the age of 60 make up only 20% of the total state population.

Image1

For the seniors living on fixed income with limited resources, the increase in property taxation can be overwhelming.  While watching the cost of everything continue to go up, including essential medical costs.

These seniors are more apt to have actually paid off their homes and then to face losing that home that is paid for in full, having it seized and sold for pennies on the dollar all in the name of tax fairness and tax stability should be reprehensible to all of us.

We started this by looking at a news article from Luzerne County.  I quoted the price of homes sold in auction in August.  The article also states that just one month later a new property tax auction is set to go forward in September that could involve a potential 2,545 properties.  It is unlikely that any of these properties sold on auction will reach the assessed worth of their homes values.

In a series of related article on property taxation, they looked at property tax increases in just 4 counties in Pennsylvania.  The article cited that property owners saw a 28% average increase in their property taxes over a time span of just 10 years.  Then as you look into this deeper you find that some district saw only a 15% increase while other districts went up by more than 50%  (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-property-tax-increases-bucks-chester-montgomery-delaware-county-20180227.html)

That article covered Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware county.  In an earlier article the same research efforts discovered that more than 200,000 properties in the same counties were over-assessed which means they are paying property taxes on property they don’t really own because the assessment is higher than their home can be sold on the open market.  That’s just four counties in the state but the story hold true no matter where you live in the state.  There is simply nothing arbitrarily fair about property taxation.  (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-property-taxes-assessment-20171214.html)

We not only have a system of taxation that robs us of our homes without just compensation to the property owner, we have a system of taxation that, because of faulty assessments, large numbers of properties are over-assessed paying more in taxes than their home is actually worth.  It may be a stable source of revenue.

The most recent chart from the Independent Fiscal office shows the cumulative growth in revenue from the property tax, PIT and SUT.

Image2

What this chart doesn’t tell us is that the growth in revenue in the SUT and PIT taxes occurred without the need for tax increases in the generation of that revenue.   On the other hand, the property tax required, literally, thousands of tax increases by the various school districts, municipalities and county government to generate that revenue with the largest contributing factor being increases by school districts.

For the half of the population in this state that lives below the median household income level, how do they prepare for such an assault in their burden of taxation?

Is it any wonder why the poverty rate is as high as it is in Pennsylvania considering how the property tax impacts to cost of everything in this Commonwealth.

Image3

These statistics come from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The property tax plays a role in this and we shouldn’t ignore that.  As the cost of everything increases while wages stagnate for those in the lower median household income bracket or with seniors on fixed income, poverty rates must increase. When those increases result in the tax seizure of a home and then that home is sold for a fraction of its worth on auctions with no consideration of the tax-payer we have despotism, not fairness in taxation.

It also plays a role in the increases in the cost of rent.

Image1

How do we continue to look at these charts and continue to talk about the stability of the property tax in relation to the people who are hit with the burden of providing for the tax?

The property tax steals from us in so many ways.  It lowers the value of our homes denying us the equity we should have earned in that home.  It makes us pay more for the goods and services we use.  It robs the state of business growth opportunities and job creation. And then, eventually it can lead to the governmental theft of a home that allows them to sell that home on an auction without any consideration of the person who is actually supposed to own that home.

It is, in short and simple terminology, Theft by Taxation!  It is precisely what Article 1, Sections 1, 8 and 10 of our Constitution is supposed to protect us from!  It’s long past time that our legislators fix this egregious violation of our protected rights, eliminate the property tax and replace that revenue with a system that is fair and based on ability to pay.  It’s time to stop talking about stability for the tax collector to look at the instability it is causing for the working families of this Commonwealth.  It’s time to start creating tax policy that creates stability for the people who must pay the tax.

Yes, authority of law as it now stands allows for the seizing of property but that authority must include just compensation to the property owner according to article 1, Section 10.  Since the current law does not accomplish that than the authority of such a law needs to be questioned because such a law operates outside the realm of the authority granted to it by our Constitution.  That should make such a law void.

 

 

 

To reach real solutions we have to honestly understand cause and effect.

In a 2017 article in the Morning Call, the issue of outmigration was explored (http://www.mcall.com/news/local/data/mc-map-pennsylvania-migration-census-20170322-htmlstory.html_.  The article states “Pennsylvania is once again a place that people love to leave. Although the state’s births outnumbered deaths, more people left the state last year than moved in, resulting in a population loss of almost 7,700 people.”

While the article talks about some positive population growth in specific areas of the state, the article does not discuss the details in the statistics of the in-migration that contributed to the growth in these areas.  Those statistics are important especially if the in-migration is largely people moving to locations because of the ease of obtaining entitlement benefits which adds a greater strain on the economy of the county and state.  In-migration in an of itself it not necessarily a good thing, it the factors that make up the in-migration that determines whether or not this is good.  An in-migration of working families who are going to hold down jobs and contribute to the tax base is a good thing.  An overwhelming in-migration of people who are not isn’t.  Likewise, if the out-migration is largely made up of people who aren’t contributing to the economy of the state isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.  However, if the out-migration is working families moving to other states where those incomes are lost to this state and are now going to another state is a very bad thing.  We need more a more detailed breakdown and much deeper analytics of these statistics before we can honestly assess what is taking place.

I’ve read several articles on the problems of out-migration from Pennsylvania.  Those articles were in both state and Federal publications.  I have yet to read one article that discusses the economic station of those leaving the state.  Are these working families or individuals who flee the state because of the tax burden and greater economic prospects in other states?  That’s a very important part of this equation because we can’t find workable solutions until we understand the depth of problem.  I believe we need to know that number because it is important in understanding the depth of this problem.

I also find the comparison of statistics interesting.  While it’s been documented by independent researchers that 10,000 people lose their homes each year because of Pennsylvania’s broken system of property taxation we don’t see the number of articles reporting that statistic, certainly not at the national level.  Yet 7,700 people leaving the state because national headlines.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t keep statistics concerning how many people lose their homes to property taxation.  You won’t find this statistic anywhere in any government site.  Nor will you find a statistic that breakdowns the number of foreclosure and bankruptcy that happens as a result of property taxation.  Maybe many just don’t want to know.  It took the hard work of private citizens to do that research on a county by county basis.

Without understanding the driving factors behind statistics, we can’t possibly have honest and accountable debates on solutions.  Because we often ignore these driving factors to focus only on the end statistics is, in my opinion, exactly why Pennsylvania continues to fall into the 5 and 10% number of the negatives for economic growth and development in our state, sometimes actually taking the number one position.

A recent study demonstrated one of those instances of a number one negative statistic.  Pennsylvania leads the country in student debt, accord to the following article (https://triblive.com/state/pennsylvania/13969077-74/pennsylvania-2017-college-grads-lead-the-nation-in-student-debt)

Once again we find a lengthy report of an actual statistic that fails to make the connect between student debt and the out-migration problem.  Are these graduated students with large college debt a large part of the out-migration statistics?  It would seem reasonable to assume this would be the case.

Graduating from college with a debt that’s the equivalent of the purchase of a new car or even to the point of the equivalence of a mortgage on home is going to drive people to look for employment opportunities in more tax friendly states.  A lower tax burden doesn’t lower their college debt but it does become a motivator to live somewhere where paying back that debt is less burdensome.  There is no correlation, in the article to declining enrollments in State run colleges in  Pennsylvania.  While nationwide college enrollment declined by 1%, Pennsylvania’s state-run colleges double that percentage with a 2% decline (https://triblive.com/news/education/career/13097071-74/college-enrollment-down-in-pennsylvania-and-across-the-nation).  The Trib article states that “Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education recorded their seventh annual decline in enrollment this fall. They registered 102,300 students, or a loss of 17,213 students since peaking at 119,513 students in 2010.”’

Once again, though, we get statistics without any analysis of why this problem exists.  The correlation between cost of an education in Pennsylvania which yields greater student debt and dwindling enrollments simply isn’t a part of the story.  As a result, we yield excuses and not solutions and Pennsylvania remains on its path of economic frivolity.

The State education system asked for an increase in the state budget of $73.1 million dollars (https://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/state_universities_enrollment.html) citing declining enrollment and increased education costs as the excuse.  Certainly, that needs to be considered but we should also be looking at the reasons for the increases in education costs.  Throwing more money at bad policy is a logic that keeps us on the path of unsustainability.  That money has to come from somewhere and when the State educational system is asking the state for more money, they are actually asking that money for us, the tax-payers because the only money the state has is money it takes from us.  That request, in the mind of legislators and our governors, has continually been to consider one of three means, taking that funding from other services in the state, finding new things to tax or increasing the tax burden on the rest of us.

What we should be doing is analyzing the cost drivers to find ways to meet revenue needs that are both thorough and efficient.  I see nothing in the constitution that includes the word, taxation that is most convenient, in Article 3, Section 14 of our state constitution.  Maybe I missed it, so I’ll include here for your convenience.

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

If you find the word convenient in regards to legislative responsibilities in taxation for education, please let me know.

Property taxation defenders often use the termination of stability of taxation of the property tax.  By that they really mean the ease of convenience of collecting and raising the tax because of the importance so many people place on home-ownership, i.e. the right to property.  It may be thorough for the tax collector but that is not the intent.  The intent is that the system of education public education that is thorough and efficient, not a system of taxation.  To even the most naïve observer, the system of property taxation in the funding of education is neither.

Because we embrace as bad policy of taxation, it creates other problems that negatively impacts the economic condition of the state.  We all know that blight is problem.  Where are the articles that explain how the rising burden of the property tax is a contributing factor in the inability of many families to do the proper upkeep and maintenance of their homes?  I ask this question seriously because I think it’s important.  Can anyone steer me to an actual article from a newspaper written by journalist, not a civilian op-ed piece, where this factor is even considered?  If you find one, send it to me and I’ll sing its praises.

I do believe that we are smart enough, in Pennsylvania, to come up with workable solutions to the many problems we face.  I also believe that to come to these solutions we need open and honest debate coupled to the political and journalistic will to start analyzing the drive factors related to these problems and stop simply spewing statistics.  Everything has a cause and effect and to solve the problems we have to be able to honestly debate the cause.

Ask yourself this simple question:  Is it reasonable to consider that outmigration, higher unemployment than the national average, debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, blight, transient populations, Pennsylvania’s lack of ability to attract new business without property tax incentives and other issues have any correlation to the high burden of property taxation in the state?

If you answer that question with a yes, then ask yourself why you don’t read about these connections in articles that discuss these issues. Why is this factor always ignored?

Then look deeper.  Why does Pennsylvania have so many property tax related exclusions?  Why do we have homestead exemptions, KOZs and LERTAs, Clean and Green, rent and housing subsidies if the real problems isn’t property taxation?  It should be obvious to all of us that the reason these things exist is because we have a property tax to begin with.  Without the property tax, the other things would not be necessary.

While we often read defenses of these programs, especially with KOZs and LERTAs, where we hear about how much money these programs have generated, those finding are never coupled to how much these programs actually cost because, once again, this isn’t a statistic that we make available to the public.  We can talk about the benefits of a program only when we weigh that to the cost of the implementation of that programs and how that cost is met.  Once we understand that we begin to see that these programs, regardless of the arguments for their necessity, exist only because we have a property tax.

Likewise, if property tax is so fair, as proponents claim, why do we need regular county-wide assessments that are expensive and add to our property tax burden?  Isn’t the fact that we need these assessments proof enough that the property tax is not fair.

Taking the re-assessments further, the evidence that assessments like this don’t actually work is evidence by the number of successful appeals that follow every reassessment.  Those appeals demonstrate a clear failing on the part of assessment companies to do what they were designed to do.

I’ve spent the greater part of the last 10 years digging into the problem of property taxation in this state.  The fact is that the more I have dug into this issue, the more egregious the property tax becomes to me.  I guess about every excuse that can be heard in defense of property taxation and what I have found is that those excuses are exactly that, excises.  They are not substantive reasons because the excuse is riddled with easily exposed holes if you actually have taken the time to understand the cause and effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Case for Property Tax Elimination from 1795

The Pennsylvania legislature, in an attempt to settle a land dispute between state residents and out-of-state purchasers from Connecticut, passed a law vesting title to the disputed property in the out-of-state purchasers. State residents with bona fide claims were compensated with an equivalent tract. Several Pennsylvania residents sued, claiming that the legislative resolution of the land dispute deprived them of their vested rights and right to a jury trial.

Justice William Patterson, serving on the Circuit Court of the United States for the Pennsylvania district, supported the Pennsylvania claimants. His charge to the jury defended the judicial power to declare laws unconstitutional. Patterson then concluded that the Pennsylvania “quieting and confirming act” violated the
constitution of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States. Vanhorne’s Lessee may be the first instance in which a federal court held state legislation unconstitutional.

There is even a greater importance to this case because Justice William Patterson mad a case for property rights that, I believe, can and should be used against continuing to allow our homes to be held hostage to this ominous tax.

Let’s start with a little background.  Pennsylvania’s first constitution came just a few months after the passing of the Declaration of Independence.  In September of 1776, this became the rule of law in Pennsylvania.  In 1790, a constitutional convention was held in Pennsylvania to amend the constitution bringing it more inline with the support of the Federal Constitution.  Just as it does today, both the 1776 and the 1790 Constitution included a section specifically titled “Declaration of Rights” where the individual rights of all Pennsylvanians were included as part of the governments responsibility to protect.

After hearing the case, Justice Patterson gave a recommendation to the jury as to how this case should be weighed and that included an in-depth analysis of the importance of the rule of law in the Constitution.  Any law, he warned, outside of the Constitutional rule of law should be deemed void.

As part of admonition to the jurors Justice Patterson said:

What is a constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the legislature, and can be revoked or altered only by the authority that made it. The life-giving principle and the death-doing stroke must proceed from the same hand. What are legislatures? Creatures of the constitution; they owe their existence to the  constitution: they derive their powers from the constitution: It is their commission; and, therefore, all their acts must be conformable to it, or else they will be void. The constitution is the work or will of the people themselves, in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity. Law is the work or will of the legislature in their derivative and subordinate capacity. The one is the work of the creator, and the other of the creature. The constitution fixes limits to the exercise of legislative authority, and prescribes the orbit within which it must move. In short, gentlemen, the constitution is the sun of the political system, around which all legislative, executive and judicial bodies must revolve. Whatever may be the case in other countries, yet in this there can be no doubt, that every act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is absolutely void.

Justice Patterson then defined the Constitutional limitations of the legislature in the creation of any act that would violate the protects guaranteed in our Constitution.  He explained to the jury the issue at hand with regards to the case.  As I read this I was struck with the harmonious indictment of the law and with the property tax as it stands today, especially with regards to the school property tax.  Justice Patterson said:

The proprietor stands afar off, a solitary and unprotected member of the community, and is stripped of his property, without his consent, without a hearing, without notice, the value of that property judged upon without his participation, or the intervention of a jury, and the equivalent therefor in lands ascertained in the same way. If this be the legislation of a republican government, in which the preservation of property is made sacred by the constitution, I ask, wherein it differs from the mandate of an Asiatic prince? Omnipotence in legislation is despotism. According to this doctrine, we have nothing that we can call our own, or are sure of for a moment; we are all tenants at will, and hold our landed property at the mere pleasure of the legislature. Wretched situation, precarious tenure! And yet we boast of property and its security, of laws, of courts, of constitutions, and call ourselves free! In short, gentlemen, the confirming act is void; it never had constitutional existence; it is a dead letter, and of no more virtue or avail, than if it never had been made.

This case, which took place 223 years ago, includes a description of the way the property tax now functions.  While it deals with an exchange between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the same principle apply when it comes to the individual rights of property ownership.

The Constitution, which created the General Assembly, which in turn created and gave certain authority to our school districts where the proprietor (property owner) has little say in the burden of taxation being placed upon them.  They are outside of school district contract negotiations and play no role in the consent of the assessed values attached to their properties as these come through appointed agents of government, not elected by the people so that the value of their property is judged by an appointed force without the participation of the property owner or the intervention of a jury.   As a result we find home-owners stripped of their property, without their consent and without a hearing.  Justice Patterson declared that such omnipotent powers over our right to property is not Justice, it is Despotism.

When the opinion for the case was written, The Judge read from the 1st. 8th. and 11th articles of the Declaration of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The 1790 Constitution read as follows:

Declaration of Rights: Section 1: That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.

Declaration of Rights: Section 8: That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures: And that no warrant to search any place, or to seize any person or things, shall issue, without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause supported by oath or affirmation.

Declaration of Rights: Section 11: That all courts shall be open, and every man, for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by the due course of law, and right and justice administered, without sale, denial or delay. Suits may be brought against the commonwealth in such manner, in such courts, and in such cases, as the legislature may by law direct.

It is important to note that each of these protections of our rights to property are still a part of our Constitution after all these years.  Today they are found in Article 1, Section 1, 8 and 11, the same sections as the 1790 Constitution.  I would add to this argument Section 9 which reads:

In all criminal prosecutions the accused hath a right to be heard by himself and his counsel, to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and, in prosecutions by indictment or information, a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage; he cannot be compelled to give evidence against himself, nor can he be deprived of his life, liberty or property, unless by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.

Keep in mind that when the law of land violates other aspects of the Constitution, Justice Patterson declared that such laws were void.

After citing the Constitutional reason that the law passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature was unconstitutional he wrote the following:

From these passages it is evident; that the right of acquiring…property, and having it protected, is one of the natural, inherent, and unalienable rights of man. Men have a sense of property: Property is necessary to their subsistence, and correspondent to their natural wants and desires; its security was one of the objects, that induced them to unite in society. No man would become a member of a community, in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property then is a primary object of the social compact, and, by the late constitution of Pennsylvania, was made a fundamental law.

Let that sink in.  The preservation of property is a primary object of the social compact (the reason for the Constitution and the government created to support it) and since these rights are still affirmed in our Constitution that it is still the legislators RESPONSIBILITY to uphold these principles of the sacred and inherent right of property which is routinely ignored and violated under the current abuses of the property tax, especially with regards to the current state of the property tax.

It should be added here that the school district boards are not governing bodies.  While they have certain authority to govern their schools, they have no real governing authority outside that limited realm.  The school board has no authority over our homes in any other realm except for the purposes of taxation and even that power should be questioned.

The school board is a created body within government which should, like all other created bodies within government, be devoid of any authority to independently tax of have any control over our property whatsoever.  This then calls into question the General Assembly’s action of granting such authority to the school district from the outset.

In my opinion, the school districts should require the consent of the governed, either through referendum or through granted authority from actual elected governing bodies at either the Local, County or State level before that can increase any tax burden on the residents.

I have cited this case in this blog to explain that the right of property was once highly esteemed in this country as was an important part of the founding principles in this nation.  The growing abuses of these rights stand in direct opposition to our founders in their intent and purpose.

That some may look at the above and attempt to refute what is written here demonstrates how far we have gone from the intent of our founders when it comes to property rights of the individual and the governments responsibility to protect those rights.

IN the debate to eliminate the school property tax, we often hear that property taxes have been around as long as their has been civilization and there is some truth to that.  However, the school property tax has not.  We cannot compare our obligations and the property taxes from the elected county and local municipal taxes, where such constitutional powers have been granted to the school districts.  They are different types of bodies, one is an elected governing body and the other, although elected, has now powers of governing in our community outside their limited functions as a school district.  They are no different from other created bodies within government who have no such taxing authority over us.

I’ll close with these words from Justice Patterson regarding this case:

But admitting, that the Legislature can take the real estate of A. and give it to B. on making compensation, the principle and reasoning upon it go no further than to shew, that the Legislature are the sole and exclusive judges of the necessity of the case, in which this despotic power should be called into action. It cannot, on, the principles of the social alliance, or of the Constitution, be extended beyond the point of judging upon every existing case of necessity. The Legislature declare and enact, that such are the public exigencies, or necessities of the State, as to authorise them to take the land of A. and give it to B.; the dictates of reason and the eternal principles of justice, as well as the sacred principles of the social contract, and the Constitution, direct, and they accordingly declare and ordain, that A. shall receive compensation for the land. But here the Legislature must stop; they have run the full length of their authority, and can go no further: they cannot constitutionally determine upon the amount of the compensation, or value of the land. Public exigencies do not require, necessity does not demand, that the Legislature should, of themselves, without the participation of the proprietor, or intervention of a jury, assess the value of the thing, or ascertain the amount of the compensation to be paid for it.

 

 

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

 

It has been my honor and blessed privilege to chair a local grassroots organization known as the Lebanon 9-12 Project.  This organization was formed in the early days of tea party movement with an emphasis on remembering the events that followed September 11, 2001; not to simply remember the horrific event itself but to hold fast to the spirit in America that followed where we came together as a nation and, for a moment, set aside party and other divisions to work together as a people united in purpose.  While established during the rising “tea party” movement, it was also something different, where policy was more important than personalities or party.

At the center of the Lebanon 9-12 Project, is the subject of Liberty…personal Liberty… and this differs from simple freedom.  Freedom can become absolute anarchy because the absolute freedom to do as we wish can include the violation of the liberties of others and this becomes a threat to the exercise of both Freedom and Liberty.  Liberty, true Liberty, contains within it, the restraining principle that I am free to exercise my rights so long as I do no harm to others.

To engage in the principle of liberty is to embrace foundational truths on our natural and inherent rights.  It embraces the sacred principles of the inherent and protected personal expressions of the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association.  There is not a single issue in our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of rights or Pennsylvania’s Constitution in Article One that is not, somehow, directly connected to the right of property.

These sacred and inherent rights have one singular limitation that, in the expression of these rights, we seek to do no harm to others.  It is a foundational truth established long before the land we now call America became a nation.  It is found in teachings of Jesus Christ. He expressed it like this “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).  We believe those words can equally be applied as a summary of the Law as established through a just government.

It is found in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Algernon Sydney, John Locke and Montesquieu…all of who preceded our founders and the birth of this Nation as a free an independent Union of States under the guidance of the rule of law as established in our Constitutions making us a nation that was best described as a Constitutional Republic..

As Thomas Jefferson declared in his rough draft of the Declaration of Independence “to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety & happiness.”

Those words were so profound that it’s one of the few segments of the rough draft of the Declaration that made it through without being altered.

If we accept that there is just government we must also accept that there is also unjust government; that sometimes laws established in even the most just of governments become corrupted and that those laws become unjust in their forceful execution.  Those unjust laws then become instruments that no longer protect the natural and inherent rights of the  people but, instead, become instruments of harm to both individuals and society as a whole.

Through the organization of the Lebanon 9-12 Project we have set as one of our highest priorities, the reestablishment of the inherent rights of property to the people in the protection of those sacred, natural and inherent rights.  Our guidance in this matter has been framed around a moral principle laid out for us at the founding of this nation and in the founding of Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth.

Before I go any further, I need it to be clearly understood that, by property, we mean all property; not just the property of our real estate.  As James Madison said “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” (James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792)

In the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States we find a list of the six ends to which the Constitution is addressed: union, justice, domestic tranquility, defense, general welfare, and liberty. The matter of liberty described most fully in these words, “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

In 1679 William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, wrote “Three Rights are so peculiar and inherent to us, that if we will not throw them away for Fear or Favor, for Meat and Drink, or those other little present Profits, that Ill Men offer to tempt us with, they cannot be altered or abrogated….The First of these Three Fundamentals is Property, that is, Right and Title to your own Lives, Liberties and Estates: In this, every Man is a Sort of Little Sovereign to himself: No Man has Power over his Person, to Imprison or hurt it, or over his Estate to Invade or Usurp it”

Now I’m saying all of this to lay a framework for an argument.  That which follows is in the context of that which preceded.

I fully understand the economic peril that the school property tax has become since it’s abuses began in the late 1960’s.  I accept the truth that people are losing their homes because they can’t keep up with the weight and burden of this tax.  While I accept the economic wrong of the abuse of this method of funding education, I firmly believe that the economic impact is a symptom of the acceptance of a moral wrong in the invasion of our supposedly protected rights to be secure in our homes and possessions.  It is the violation of the principle of liberty that creates the economic condition.  It does so because it is an unjust Law.

Those who are comfortable with property taxation accept it without looking at the consequences of the school property tax in inflating the costs of all the goods and services we not only use, but also need for survival.   Food and clothing cost more because there is a property tax.  Our homes cost to us personally more because their a property tax.  Even those who rent will pay higher rental prices because there is a property tax.

The principle of Liberty is violated because it is a law that, although some are comfortable with it, it requires doing harm to others.  In 2015 Governor Wolf acknowledged that simple fact when he said “There is a need to understand the investment that is education.  There is a choice of supporting education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some” (The Pocono Record, Mat 27, 2015)

Governor Wolf’s words are a kinder and gentler way of expressing the sentiment expressed during a hearing on Property Tax Elimination by Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center when he said that 10,000 people losing their homes each year is not a significant enough number to do something about it.  To demonstrate that the Governor must apparently agree with the sentiment of Michael Wood, understand this: In 2015, under Governor Wolf, he became Executive Budget Manager of the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget (June 2015 – July 2018) and then in July of this year Michael Wood became the Policy Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Michael Wood and his ideological positioning to accept a corrupted system of taxation, a system supported by Governor Wolf’s statement is one way that we can understand how the deep state works.  Once appointed after spearheading an organization that works against the best interest of the citizenry of this Commonwealth, these people can advance their agendas.  Adding insult to injury, by appointing them to critical positions within this deep state shadow government, they can operate behind the scenes, hidden through a general lack of transparency when it comes to the actions of this myriad of Departments, Agencies and Commissions where they will further influence policy and impose regulations that further perpetuate the violations of our homes and possessions.

Recently we saw another appointment of an individual as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.  That person was Jerry Oleksiak who was lauded as being a teacher upon the announcement of his nomination.  Oleksiak was, actually, a ghost teacher, where instead of teaching in the classroom, he was paid to do the work of the PSEA, Pennsylvania’s largest public sector unions representing teachers.  While a ghost teacher, Oleksiak advanced through the ranks to become the President of the PSEA.  Prior to being elected PSEA President, Oleksiak served as PSEA Vice President, PSEA Treasurer, a member of the PSEA Board of Directors, and President of Mideastern Region of PSEA, which includes Bucks and Montgomery Counties. He also served as Chair of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee.

As head of the Department of Labor and Industry he will now oversee the Collective Bargaining aspects related to the PSEA.

As James Madison wrote in Federalist Papers, No. 10, November 23, 1787: “The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling which they overburden the inferior number is a shilling saved to their own pockets.”

In this same document Madison explained that no man should allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. Through the deep state, however, this is exactly what we see happening.  Individuals with personal self-serving interests are setting policy and controlling regulatory authority allowing them to be the judge in their own cause.

To accept the taxation of property to fund education is to accept the institutions established that are working behind the scenes to perpetuate this violation of our rights to property where doing harm to others is entirely acceptable behavior so long as a few benefit greatly by its implementation or, as Senator Folmer explained, “Sacrificing principle on the altar of self-interest.”

The goal of the Lebanon 9-12 Project is the complete elimination of all property taxes, starting with the egregious school property tax.  We must move away from bad taxation principles that violate our personal liberties.  Those bad policies begin by first ignoring our sacred and inherent rights to property and the government’s responsibility, if they wish to remain a just government, of protecting that sacred and inherent right.   To be clear, taxation as a means to fund the necessary functions of government is a shared responsibility.  That responsibility, however, should never primarily be limited to one class in society, especially where, within that class, exemptions are continually carved out that passed that burden on to fewer people with in that class.  That responsibility MUST be based on taxation established through the principle of ability to pay.

The property tax is not based on ability to pay.  It assumes a wealth based on property ownership and imposes a special penalty on us.  That assumed wealth will never generate the income necessary to pay for the property tax.  By shifting to an income related tax or to a sales and use tax, we better reflect ability to pay and con do so in a way that is for more equitable and will not require the constant tax increases that are necessary because we rely on property tax to fund education and our government.

The goal is, elimination and how we get there is very important.  We accept our mutual responsibility in the funding of something so important as education.  In this fact, we agree with our opposition that education funding is important, where we disagree is in how we fund that system of education.

Our opponents accept the immorality of the unjust system of taxation that is not based on ability to pay that has the power to deny some the liberty in their sacred and inherent rights to pursue their own happiness through the purchase and complete ownership of their home.  We understand that either we have a right to our own property or we become the property of others.  Through the property tax, we become the subservient player where the protected privilege of denying liberty to some, thus actually denying it to all whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, and giving agencies of government an authority over our homes in ways that were never intended by our founding or through the foundational doctrines of our Commonwealth and Country…for certainly the abuse of property taxation has become a perversion of the intent of those who were tasked with creating those profound documents.

The continual efforts of fixing this issue through relief schemes or through carving out more exemptions has continually demonstrated that these tactics aren’t working.  They not only aren’t working, they are making the situation more intolerable for more people.  And yet, we continually hear about their temporary fixes where they plot and conspire to do the same things in the name of property tax relief all while promising different results this time.  That’s insanity.

When the same tactics continue to prove themselves to be unworkable, you have to be willing to go in a different direction.  You must look for alternative solutions to this unreasonable tax burden that plagues, not only individuals, but the entire Commonwealth making us a less attractive place to establish roots, attract new business to the Commonwealth or to allow for existing business to expand.

To my way of thinking, any one defending the status quo of property taxation is also preserving the potential of pushing Pennsylvania further into that downward spiral that continues to hurt our economy.  It does so because of the immoral principles that supports the property tax itself.  Once you correct the injustice of the property tax, you set us on a course of better being able to fix those other issues as well.

 

 

 

If you are going to engage in the political realm, there are no safe spaces!

For the first time since the property tax elimination debate has taken root in Pennsylvania, we have a candidate for Governor who has been out on the campaign trail championing school property tax elimination.  It is a centerpiece of his pledge to Pennsylvania and everywhere he goes we hear the same promise.  If Scott Wagner is elected as Governor of Pennsylvania, he will eliminate our property taxes.

Recently, Scott has taken some heat because he responded to a socialist plant during a debate in a short and curt manner.  He called her young and naive.  This fueled a socialist led media fury that attempted to make far more out of this than it really was.

I always find the realm of political rhetoric interesting.  By this I mean the political rhetoric that goes beyond a candidate or a politician’s actual statements into a whole different realm.  The fact that the press has given this as much attention as it has, reveals much about our press.  A young woman was supposedly offended by a response to a planted political question intended to advance an agenda of socialism.

Those pushing the narrative are others who have been involved in organizing some of the more radical elements of the progressive socialist narrative.  The woman is allowing herself to be exploited to advance an agenda, a narrative, fueled by socialist extremists who want to tear down the fabric of our Constitution  and the rule of law here in Pennsylvania.

The young woman feigns being offended by the way she was treated and the press has a field day with it and the promoters of the socialist dismantling of America are pushing the narrative.

We live in a state where, each year, 10 thousand people face losing their homes because of a tax that has exceeded their ability to keep up.  If they can’t meet the tax demands, their home will be seized, sold at a public auction where there is an excellent chance that the home will be sold for far less than the actual worth of the property.  The property owners investment in that property can be lost.  Any equity they may have acquired while living in that home….gone.

The property tax works in a way that a layer of taxation is applied that adds to the cost of everything we purchase and every service we use.  The property tax becomes part of the operating expense for a business and in order to continue to provide the goods and services we need and use, they must pass the cost of the property tax on to the consumer.

For those already struggling to meet their tax obligation, insult is added to injury, because now the other things they need to survive; things like food, clothing, medications, legal services….it all costs more because of the cost of maintaining a property tax.  It’s called the Cascade Effect of taxation and I cover this in more detail elsewhere in this blog.

For the renters, they may complain about the increasing costs of their rent every time the landlord is forced, because of property taxation, to raise the rent.   When the rent exceeds the affordability of the tenant, they too are forced to find somewhere else to live.  As the property tax drives up the rent beyond these tenant’s ability to pay, the tenant must now incur the expense of moving and the disruption of their family’s life.

Now I’m saying all of this to make this simple point.  The press has a field day because they’ve spun a news story about a socialist plant at a Scott Wagner political event to decry that she was offended.  While nothing was physically taken from this woman in the process, each year many families are crushed by the burden of an unreasonable and unfair burden of property taxation.

They will be forced out of their homes and their rented properties while the property tax continues to make the cost of just living more expensive for more people.  And yet, where is the same outrage from the press?  Where is the outcry of these socialist social justice warriors when it comes to the process of this theft by taxation that is known as the property tax?

Shouldn’t we all be more offended by the actual physical seizing of personal and private property than we are offended by a mere statement made during a political campaign?

Back in 2015 Governor Wolf was on one his many support our schools, taxpayer funded tours.  The press was there making sure he got all the coverage he needed and they did their best to paint these tours in a positive light.  Even when the Governor said something that should have offended all of us, the press just dismissed it.  They did provide the quote but never contextualized it.  The Governor said, according to The Pocono Record, May 27, 2015:

“There is a need to understand the investment that is education.  There is a choice of supporting education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some.”

Again, where was the outrage in the press and the public concerning a statement by a governor who accepts that losing a home is a part of education funding the way it is accomplished through property taxes

The home owners who loses their homes; the tenants who have to vacate their rented property; that is not a choice.  That is a forced action generated by a government that backs a system of taxation that disrupts the lives of families across the Commonwealth.  The choice referred to by the governor is a choice to continue to support property taxation by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government…not a choice by, for or of the people.  It is a choice government continues to make in spite of the cries from the public to do away with such a tax.

Even more offensive, at least to me, is the fact that the Governor admits knowing that people are losing their homes and in three years, since that statement, he’s done nothing….absolutely nothing…to support alternative education funding methods that would eliminate the unfair and regressive property tax.

Today, in this realm of political polarization, hardly a day passes where I’m not personally offended by the comments of somebody in the political spectrum;  From journalists more interested in promoting opinion rather than actual news to politicians who say things that really get under my skin.

That’s not news.  Yet when this woman claimed to be hurt by Scott Wagner’s response, that became news.  In the stories I’ve read, they didn’t even focus on the debate of the context of her question or to report the fact that there are noted scientists in the field who would refute her claims.  That was irrelevant.  The only relevance was that her feelings were hurt.

None of the stories reported her connection to extreme socialism or that she was a plant meant to disrupt the Wagner campaign event.  None of the stories connected her to radical movements like Antifa where fascist tactics are used while claiming to be anti-fascist.  There was one singular motive and that was to use this event and this person through the press and social media to paint this girl as a victim.

That’s crap.  She wasn’t a victim.  Her feelings, she says, were hurt…Welcome to the real world where feelings getting hurt are a real part of life.  Something that shouldn’t be a part of life is taxation by theft that steals our homes out from underneath us to support of broken and unsustainable system of taxation that, by its design, inflicts the most damage to those least able to sustain that damage.

The disregard for the plight of those most vulnerable to being exploited by this broken and regressive system of taxation should have us all outraged  But I have to ask, why don’t more of us feel that the theft by taxation that is the property tax is an  offensive front to humanity where the most vulnerable can be physically victimized by a system of taxation that steals their property?  Why do so many continue to defend the indefensible in the theft of one of the most fundamental necessities of life: a shelter that we can call our own?

Governor Wolf has had 4 years to do something about the property tax and he made a choice.  That choice was to do nothing.   That choice included accepting that the way we fund education requires the theft of the property of some of our citizens.  By doing nothing the Governor has demonstrated that the issue isn’t important enough to be on his radar.

Now, to be fair to the Governor, I did spend some time in meetings with him on the issue.  He admitted to the problem and even went so far as to declare that if SB76, a plan to eliminate the property tax by replacing it with a far more equitable system of education funding, made it to his desk, he would sign it into law.  Then his Lt. Governor cast the deciding vote that killed the bill in the Senate in 2015.

The bill was re-introduced but the Governor has remained silent on it.  He has not chosen to use his position as Governor and the strength of the bully pulpit that comes with that office to advance the narrative or to drum up support from among his colleagues.

And yet he was quick to jump on the hurt feelings of a socialist plant at a Republican political event.  He championed her hurt feelings and expressed his concern for her while saying nothing about the feelings of the thousands of families whose who have been exploited through taxation by having their home ripped out from underneath them to support of system of taxation he’s done nothing to change.

I don’t know about you but when I have to weigh on the importance of the issue of a woman who was supposedly hurt by a comment on the campaign trail, a comment from a person who knew she was going to ask a controversial question and, most likely get a controversial response.  I mean what did anyone really expect.

When you make salient points concerning property tax elimination or expose the prejudice of property taxation, they don’t debate the fact or the issue, they resort to the personal attack of pointing out that I have no “formal” education that granted me initials after my name.  It’s not that our facts our wrong, it’s that we somehow don’t have a right to defend the facts because we aren’t part of their “educational” hierarchy.  It’s almost as though they think that you can’t become informed through work and hard effort on your own unless you’ve been indoctrinated first to be a part of their elite club.  Pardon my frankness here but that’s bullshit!

I know, when you go into the controversial realm, like discussing eliminating property taxes, you are going to get criticized.  I’ve been called everything from a socialist to a neo-con.  It’s a part of the political realm.

When you engage you have to expect that you are going to be attacked, especially in this age of political polarization.  If she honestly didn’t expect that, then yes, she is young and naive.  I am highly suspect that she didn’t expect the results she got.  It’s hard to claim yourself as a victim when your entire purpose was to set yourself up for such a response.  When your goal is to raise a controversial question of a candidate who you know is not in alignment to your political view and they respond harshly, you are not a victim.  If you then exploit that narrative to paint yourself as the victim, you are, in reality, the exploiter and you are then the bully of the playground, not the victim.

If you are going to engage in the political realm, there are no safe spaces.  If you expect otherwise, you are not just naive, you are ridiculously naive.  That’s just not how politics work and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not…if you aren’t willing to face political realities head on then you can’t change the process.

When you take a position on an issue that finds others on the opposite side, you have to expect resistance.  You have to expect that your position is going to be opposed and that sometimes that opposition will be expressed in ways that you, personally, may not like.  Frankly, having watched the “entire” video, not just the extracted version, I don’t find anything overtly offensive in the response by Scott Wagner.

Scott has made it clear that there are issues where he doesn’t have all the immediate answers.

Wow, a politician that admits to his own humanity.  Certainly we haven’t reached a point in society where we actually think are governors are gods incapable of having the absolute correct answer to all the problems.

Scott has also made it clear the he will bring on advisers to help him in making the most informed decisions possible in the solution to problems that face our Commonwealth.  That’s assuming the correct position that a governor should be in.  They are, after all, human just like the rest of us and it is impossible for them to know everything.

There are also limitations related to his position as Governor of Pennsylvania and matters that are beyond his Constitutional limitation.  That was Scott’s reply to this woman.  He said it in short and curt terms.  He said “Look you’re electing a governor, not a scientist” but that demonstrates that Scott recognizes the limitation to his office and that he will remain within those Constitutional limitations, unlike our current governor who has used the courts to subvert our Constitution.

She may not like his response and, to my way of thinking, that’s okay.  Then again, I was raised during a generation where an expression reigned in teaching us to deal with hurt feelings.  You might remember it as well…

Sticks and Stones can break my bones but names will never harm me.

In other words….SUCK IT UP SUNSHINE…it’s part of the process.

When I weigh what happened with this young woman against the continual support of the theft through the taxation of property, I see no real comparison.  The press is worried about name calling but when it comes to the Sticks and Stones of theft by taxation and the victims of such an abuse, there are painfully silent.

When I’m out on the road and I meet with families and individuals who are in the process of having their homes stolen from them, I believe that those are news stories and yet when was the last time you picked up a newspaper and read a similar outcry as we’ve seen with this woman.

There is only one candidate in this race for Governor who actually understands the real victimization that comes with the property tax.  There is only one candidate in this race who worked to advance property tax elimination in the past four years and there is only one candidate who promises to eliminate the theft of property through taxation and that candidate is Scott Wagner.

It is a realm that, as Governor, Scott can and will Constitutionally lead, something that has been sorely missing in this debate.  It is a realm in which he is very informed.  He knows the problems and he understands the solution.

Our current Governor is also informed.  I know that from my conversations with him.  He recognizes the problems but he has made a choice not to lead on this issue.  He has made a choice to spend four years and do nothing to work towards elimination of the school property tax.

The difference between the two is stark.  Scott Recognizes our inherent right to property. Tom Wolf does not.  Tom Wolf thinks that funding education means that your property actually belongs to government and if you are not in step with their demands, that government has a right, not only to seize you of your property but to deny you just compensation in the seizing of the property in direct violation of one of most fundamental rights in this process of eminent domain.

The difference is as far apart as the Earth is from Pluto.  After all, either we have a right to our own property or we become the property of others.  The current governor has accepted that we are the property of government, not the other way around.  If he didn’t, he’d do something about!