We The People…..those three words begin the most important document in the history of our federal government. Our founders understood that just governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed and they gave us a Declaration of Independence that proudly stated so. They understood that our rights were inherent; that they didn’t come to us from government so just governments could not take something from us that is not theirs to give. Our Founders believed that those rights were important enough that they pledged support of a Bill of Rights in order to assure that our government would continue to protect our individual rights.
Pennsylvania’s Constitution begins with a Declaration of our Rights. That Declaration of Rights appeared in our first Commonwealth Constitution enacted on September 28, 1776. They too recognized that our rights do not come from governments but that just and moral governments existed to protect those rights.
Somewhere along the way we seemed to have forgotten those principles. Many who pose as our elected representatives have certainly forgotten that. We bear a great deal of burden for that happening. For a very long time we so implicitly trusted our representatives to represent us that we went about our lives ignoring the slow but steady and continual encroachments of our rights. Then when these elected representatives do come in our midst all to often we treat them like royalty and embellish them with laurels and praises ignoring any infringements or abuses to our rights. So yes, we do bear a large part of the blame for allowing this to happen.
As they mingle in their peer group of legislators praising one another as their “distinguished colleagues”; as the special interests fill their offices with more praise and campaign financing; the connect between our representatives and us has only grown wider. It is as though when they descend from their palace in Harrisburg and walk among us we are to feel privileged and honored.
Maybe this come because so many of them believe they no longer work for us….we work for them. You might take exception to that but then explain why Pennsylvania is continually in the bottom 10% of places to live for taxation and business. You attempt to shoot down legislation that would work for the people and bring prosperity to the state by saying “the number don’t work.” I have some news for you…..The numbers never have to work for us, for we the people. To you the numbers only have to work fund whatever it is you want to fund. Our job under this system is to then embrace our duty to make their numbers work regardless of how much it costs us personally whether that be through higher costs of goods and services through over regulation and taxation on the goods and services we use, to tax us through hidden taxes or to tax us directly.
In saying that we now work for you, I assure you I do not mean in the sense of an employee/employer work relationship but rather a master and slave relationship. The irony here is that the foundation of our government was one where our representatives (and other employees of the public sector) actually was supposed to work for us. We work so you can fund any project you want to fund regardless of how much we must do without to make that possible. If it means we can’t keep up in our sacrifices to this government then you’ll take your home while expecting us to fear you…to cower in silence and say nothing.
Another part of the problem where we share the blame is our dependence on our parties to tell us who to vote for as though we could not possibly make a wise enough choice on our own without being steered like sheep to the butcher by the endorsement process. Our Party Committees tell us that they have had one on one contact with these “representatives’ so they know better than us. At the same time they do everything they can to keep us from actually getting to know those candidates by not holding debates or functions where we can actually question a candidate in the belief that everything we need to know about them can be summarized by a handful of large print bold faced talking points on a 6×8 glossy cardstock mailer.
The notion that you can tell us what you want, true or not, and we will blindly accept that is seems to be so ingrained in politics these days. Local, State, Federal – it makes no difference. You tell us bold-faced lies and then when those lies are exposed we are just supposed to move along as though there is nothing to see there. If we finally say enough, when we finally tell you they’ve gone too far; you respond, not by listening to us, but by exerting force to try and silence those voices even further. If we publicly challenge you you claim we are threatening you. It is your actions however, and in this particular case inaction, is the real threat. It is a threat to our homes, our security and our happiness. It’s as though you honestly believe you are not accountable to us for you actions and we serve only to tell you what wonderful taskmasters you are. Te rejoice and tell you what a wonderful privilege it is to make such sacrifices for you.
We are frustrated in not understanding what it is that you can’t see as far as what property Taxation is doing to us as individuals or what it is doing to the State in general. If you place such burdens on us that we must surrender our homes to you how can you possibly not expect us to rise up in anger and frustration. Do you honestly expect us to drop to our knees and beg forgiveness for our unfaithfulness in paying for these extravagances? Do you honestly believe that we should be willing to surrender a life time of investment in our properties and quietly watch as our homes are sold on auction with the only requirement being that taxes and cost are covered. Our investment means nothing – just compensation is ignored because being unable to keep up with the taxes is a punishable crime prosecuted without due process. We’ve been told by School Districts that, at the end of the day, the bills must be paid. What about our bills. It is a just government that makes it impossible for citizens in the state to afford to stay in their homes and pay their own bills so that others can pay for theirs? Is it possible that you honestly think seniors who have worked their entire lives and now living in retirement should go back into the workforce in an attempt to keep their homes just so they can providing for the retirements of others?
For 30 years we have fought to undo this unjust and immoral form of taxation. For 30 years we have been offered excuses and the illusion of relief. Whatever relief we do see is quickly devoured by increases in the property tax almost as though as soon as as there is the happy sound of a little jingle in our pockets the modern day Sheriff’s of Nottingham seize upon us to remove us of that jingle. There are, after all, cows to fatten and golden idols to be made so let us rejoice in the scraps that fall from your table!
Across the state of Pennsylvania the support for the elimination has grown and it has done so through a very active grassroots voice of constituents who have contacted their legislators. To date, 90 House representatives have heard that voice and have chosen to support the people. 22 Senate representatives have done the same. That have listened to us and they understand our please. Yet others, rather than working for real solutions will nitpick and make excuses. Many of those excuses are little more than ridiculous.
Consider this one. First they tell us that this is a spending problem, not a property tax problem. We point out that this caps the spending to the rate of inflation and then they tell us the numbers don’t work because 5 years down the road the school districts won’t get the same annual increases they are now very used to granting themselves. How do you ever intend to cut spending if you don’t cut spending?
To add insult to injury our “representatives” introduce a bill that would grant an even more powerful taxing authority to our school districts and then tell us this is the relief we’ve been waiting for. This is the property tax solution, My only reasonable conclusion to that statement is that you honestly do believe we are stupid. This is not an alternate solution, this is just making a bad situation worse.
To begin with, our school districts are not governing bodies. Local Government is defined in Article 9 of our Constitution. School District is not listed as a governing authority and for good reason, they don’t govern us. The police department has no such taxing authority. Fire and Safety has no such authority. The Street Cleaner, Dog Catcher, Prothonotary; none of them have such authority. Not even our military has such authority. Our School districts have the authority to write, vote for and then spend their budgets without any real checks and balances. During the writing of the Budget we don’t have a seat at that table until after the budget is written and the decisions are already made. The public meeting on the budget is little more than a show piece to create the illusion that we can play some role in this process.
Then you have the audacity to question the Constitutionality of HB/SB 76 by talking about vagaries within the Uniformity Clause while ignoring that there is nothing constitutional about the granting of a taxing authority to a non-governing body. No other non-governing bodies have such powers and the solution to this is not to grant this body more powers in taxation, as is being promoted by HB 1186, but to strip them of all powers of taxation.
The law granting this power to the school district came about without amending our Constitution. It came about in 1965 through ACT 511.
We have just gone through the process of passing a 28.5 billion dollar budget and we have heard that you did so without raising our taxes. Really? What about the other 13 billion taken from us locally that is part of the cost of State Mandated Public Education System. Education is a State controlled institution. It is heavily regulated and mandated by the State by legislative and appointed agency actions. To think that the actual budget for the state should exclude this additional cost is just one way we feel you are ignoring our plight. In total 26 billion is being spent on public education with only 15.5 billion funding all the other functions of the state government. Between the two that’s more than 40 billion, not 28.5
Every unfunded mandate to our school districts is a tax increase. Our Governor or the legislators who tell us otherwise are lying to us. That’s right, I said lying, because it is a lie to claim you aren’t raising our taxes when your actions and the actions the appointed Department of Education are interfering with the levying of local taxation in complete violation of Article 3, Section 31 of our Commonwealth Constitution.
Under the proposal of HB/SB 76 all individuals will receive the exact same increase in their PIT tax to fund education. Under HB/SB 76 we would all pay the same increases in the sales tax and the expansion of that tax. You can’t get any more uniform than that. Under the current system of taxation it has repeatedly been proven that the reassessment of property is unreliable in its equity of application. It is in already in violation of the uniformity clause. Even reassessing property every three years will not entirely resolve that problem and the cost of maintaining that is no longer sustainable by many in our commonwealth. Then again,those number don’t have to work for the people, they just have to work for those taking the money from us.
Under the new proposal of HB/SB 76 we will be taxed once on that new income and once at the point of sales. Everyone will be taxed equally at the same percentage rate. Under the current system you will be re-taxed every year on the same item. Eventually you will spend more for the taxation on that property than it is worth. To call this justice or fair taxation is to honestly belief that we are your serfs and you are our lords. That we do, in fact, work for you and that our rights actually do come from government. Nothing could be more alien from the founding principles of this nation.
Those same legislators who make the claim of inequity offer relief through exemptions. Now the Uniformity Clause states that all persons of the same class being taxed must be uniformly taxed. The Uniformity Clause also contains distinct and defined Constitutional exemptions to the uniformity clause. For example, non-profits are exempt. There are others but the point is they are defined and limited and limited by our Constitution. Any changes to that requires a Constitutional Amendment.
Perhaps those legislators would like to explain to me how any exemptions outside of those narrowly defined exemptions in our Constitution are Constitutional and not in violation of the Uniformity Clause. A property owner is a property owner regardless of their age, income or any other factor. To offer relief or exemption to any subdivision of property owners by age, income or any other factor is to discriminate against all other property owners who do not qualify. If that what you mean by Uniformity?
That same principle should not only apply to property tax, it should apply to all forms of taxation.
Property tax will never honestly reflect that actual value of the property. We are taxed on an estimated worth of the property at the time of the reassessment. If the housing market drops and our property values decline, our taxes aren’t adjusted to account for that. Even if they were, it wouldn’t matter. The school district always has the freedom through EXEMPTIONS to increase the tax on that property to make up for the lost revenue. Their tax payer funded solicitor will just make the necessary adjustments to make sure any shortfalls in the budget meet the qualifications of the exemptions and then the request for exemption from referendum will be rubber stamped. That isn’t taxation. That is extortion.
The excuses still continue and many of us have seen through the excuses. Frankly, we are tired of excuses. As a legislator, if you have any concerns about the language in this bill, you have the power to make that case of the floor of the house or the senate in full debate on these bills through an amendment process. Nit-picking about holding up this legislation because of problems like the word “use” not appearing in the bill when it says sales tax is easily remedied. Stop making excuses and fix it.
We want a solution that will eliminate the school tax while removing a taxing authority from the school district to be replaced with a system where all taxes at the local level to our schools are completely at the consent of the citizens through a non-exempt voter referendum. If you honestly belief in local control than grant it to us, not to the school district. We want a system that makes every mandate from our State bodies, elected or appointed, to be fully funded by the state before it is imposed on us at the local level and only the elimination of the school property tax will force that.
The mere concept that a state appointed agency can implement a program on our schools that has been estimated to come at a cost of $645 million dollars without legislative consent or the consent of the people is a concept so foreign to our founders that it has no place in our form of government at all.
Foolishly believing that relief is the answer ignores the fact that foreclosures, tax liens and property seizures have never once declined in the history of the relief. In fact, those numbers are increasing in spite of any the previous failed attempts at relief. Those numbers might work for you, but those numbers are unacceptable to us.
Please don’t talk to me about the Constitution until you begin to do things in strict adherence to that same document. We can make a very strong Constitutional case that the School Property Tax under Act 511 should never have been enacted. Since you are doing nothing to repeal it and everything in your power to stand in the way of a law that would, you have no respect for the Constitution to begin with. If this bill is not moved forward then we the people will have no other recourse but to take legal actions naming the legislators who are standing in the way of the elimination of the School Property Tax as defendants against the people of this Commonwealth. That course of action is already in the planning stage.
The truth is that many in our legislative bodies actually do listen to us. There is however a handful of career minded politicians in powerful positions and they use that position to intimidate and control younger legislators. Those power brokers have the ability to control committee assignments and leverage the power structure in the Capitol. All of this is based on tenure and often not on qualifications. One particular opponent is very quick to mention he’s been fighting for Property Tax Independence for 12 years. Well, in those 12 years you have accomplished nothing that has worked for the home owners in this state. NOTHING! And this qualifies you to be a leader in the house how?
If these words hurt your feelings, I make no apologies. You were elected to represent the people of this state and we the people aren’t being represented….we are being abused as the protections of our Commonwealth Constitution are being ignored. You may be at risk of losing your pride and having your ego bruised but we are at risk of losing our homes.