“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15 – 20)
The opening of the fall session of the Pennsylvania House should have been an eye-opener for the people of the state but unfortunately there are still a lot of people asleep at the wheel. In an effort to shut down HB 76, a handful in the leadership of the House used every underhanded political tactic to kill the bill including introducing two particularly dangerous pieces of legislation that many legislators voted for just so they could say they are offering their constituents something in the form of Property Tax Relief.
The struggle for real reform in Pennsylvania always seems to hit legislative impasses that seeks to offers band-aids when the state needs sutures. Nowhere is this more evident than it is with the Property Tax. Actually, I think the Elimination of the School Property Tax is the only way to really bring about the reform in the state that Pennsylvania needs and I believe the legislators know this.
We know there is a Pension Problem. They can talk all they want about underfunding but in the end that’s all it is….talk! The pension will have to be paid somehow and too many of our legislators are perfectly happy with kicking people out of their homes by paying for the debacle through the school property tax. During the three hour debate on Property Tax in the House opponents of elimination made it clear….the property tax must remain if we are going to fund the pensions.
We need to seriously look at that premise. The Pension being paid to the public sector not only allows them to retire early, placing a cost on education that has nothing to do with actual education of our children, and to retire at a very comfortable percentage of their income. Too provide this for those public sector employees some of our legislators are perfectly happy with others not being able to retire if they want to keep their homes. Too provide for this some of our legislators are perfectly happy with some people choosing between meds and food or their property tax bills. Too provide for this some of our legislators are perfectly happy keeping younger lower income families from obtaining the dream of home ownership or to push those families out of their homes because of an inability to pay their school property taxes. Too provide for this some of our legislators are perfectly happy with the fact that in order to provide for those public sector pensions many Pennsylvanians will not be able to adequately provide for their own retirement.
With people living much longer an early retirement on a State mandated pension puts more people on the retirement roles while new people have to be hired to fill their positions. When it comes to an already top-heavy economic educational system, how long can such a thing be sustained. Again, some of our State legislators are perfectly happy with this or they would do something serious about fixing the problem. I’m sure we’ll hear a whole lot about it next year as the campaign season roles around but elections are looking more like the old snake-oil wagon that used to role in to town promising solutions to our woes through some magic elixir that they knew full well would not deliver on the promises made to the people who bought into it.
The opponents of elimination fought and they fought hard. Some of these opponents claim to stand for other reform-minded issues in the state for things like Pension Reform, Prevailing Wage, Paycheck Protections and Right To Work. But where is their fight like we saw them in the fight against property tax elimination. Introducing a bill and do nothing to advance it isn’t a solution. It takes a real legislative leader like Jim Cox to fight the good fight. It takes others standing with him when leadership lies and distorts using reports not yet available to other legislators. That takes a backbone, something sadly lacking in Harrisburg.
That’s not to put all the blame the legislators. When the people complacently consent to these actions with their silence, we are as much to blame for their lack of will as they are.
I stated earlier that Elimination of the School Property Tax is the only path to real reform and I am fully prepared to back up that claim. As long as the School Property Tax exists the State unfunded mandates adding to the cost of education for things like the early comfortable retirement policies, prevailing wage that drives up school building renovations, the issue of paycheck protections and yes, even right to work, can be ignored in order to keep those issues…like the issue of property tax itself…where these legislators think they belong, in the realm of the campaign trail for campaign promises, not to actual legislative commitment.
Opposing School Property Tax elimination is the key to making sure that the best we will ever get is a band-aid when we need sutures. Supporting these legislators is, therefore, anethema to those of us fighting for real reform in the Pennsylvania. It’s sort of like getting passing grades on the regular tests for having the right answers by failing the final exam because you don’t know how to put the answers into practice. When you expect others to pay the price for that failure and then expect to be thanked in the process, you are reading the wrong blog.
We have a right to expect results from our investment in education in this state and I’m sorry but spending 30 billion dollars in this state for the return on our investment isn’t giving us anything even close to a fair return for that investment. Preventing many of us from adequately providing for our own retirement or even staying in our own homes so we can provide for yours is not a return on an investment on education….its theft.
Regulating and standardizing education to the point where we are tying the hands of our exceptional teachers to pay for programs like Common Core, or the thinly disguised Pennsylvania Core, is just the same snake oil in a different bottle does nothing to improve education. To vehemently defend such programs and making sure the property tax stays in place to pay for it should be revealing but still many will leave the blinders firmly in place. Refusing to admit that such a thing as bad teachers exist doesn’t do any of any good at all. Frankly, if you need an IPad, Smart Board or a 38 million dollar atrium to teach a child how to read, the problem isn’t with the child. Building an educational institution where the bad teachers are rewarded with exceptional pay and benefits while tying the hands of the exceptional educators is a system doomed to failure. Lowering the standards to get better grades is not a solution either. It might look good as a label but it’s all snake oil. It’s an illusion of a cure that cures nothing.
The exceptional Educators actually teaching in the classroom are telling us how bad this is becoming but those elite “educators” who spend little if any time in the classroom tell us otherwise and guess which group the supporting legislators listen to. That should come as no surprise.
While homeowners are telling them that the property tax is breaking their backs the opponents listen to the people all too willing to comply with the State’s unfunded mandates and pass those costs on to the people who are complaining. Regardless of what the PSEA and the PSBA tells us, they don’t pay the bills….they only pass that on the the property owners in the state and we pay the bills even when that means we can’t pay our own bills. For the property owner, the buck always stops with them. Once it get’s to them there’s no where else to go because the home owner/consumer is the bottom of the tax paying food chain and too many special interest groups are perfectly happy gouging themselves in the moment without looking down the road at the long term consequences.
The same is true of our special interest business opposition. I’m very pro-business. I agree that our sales tax code is too complicated and I also agree that the taxes imposed on business is keeping business out of this state providing for less jobs and less chances for real economic recovery. What I don’t get is that no matter how you look at it your survival is dependent upon assuring that the bottom of the food chain remains in place. Higher taxes drive up the cost of goods and services. When you are opposing legislation that puts more discretionary spending into the pockets of the consumers who could then pay those prices, you are starving those necessary to keep you alive.
The most foolish are those who are still comfortable in their property taxes so as to ignore the plight of those suffering. When that supply is gone, how long will it last before you join with them and are no longer comfortable?
In any ecosystem, the protection of all the elements of the things necessary for the survival of all participants in that ecosystem is essential. When the predators are unrestrained they do become like ravenous wolves and a little more is never enough because they’ll always need a little more. When those predators become legislators, we must do something about it. We do to our economy what was accurately portrayed in the Disney Children’s film, The Lion King. We put the hyenas in charge who gouge themselves upsetting the food chain and soon everyone is starving. Until the hyenas are removed from their positions of authority, nothing is going to change and we have more than our share of hyenas in Harrisburg. If that offends you, resign. It wouldn’t be offensive if you weren’t part of the problem.
As a taxpayers and one near the bottom of the food chain in the tax paying food chain, I’m tired of being looked at as a bottomless tax resource. For us there is no robbing from Peter to pay Paul. Peter and Paul are the same person and we have nowhere else to turn.
We have too many policies in this state that ARE bearing bad fruit. Nothing good can ever come out of them and HB 1189 is one of those bad trees. The fact that it’s prime sponsor can not see this nor can he see the problems with Common Core tells me that it’s time for him to be cut down from his legislative branch so that we can graft in somebody new who will.
I happen to be somebody who believes that there is nothing inherently wrong with our form of government but the tree has been left unpruned for too long and the tree never prunes itself. In America, the responsibility to prune the tree rests in the people. The same is true in this state and its time to do some pruning.
At the risk of turning this into a sermon consider this parable:
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, some an hundred. He said unto them, He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
During the first week of this legislative session we watched as good seed fell among thorns and the thorns choked out the good seed. I say it’s time to get rid of the thorns and let the good seed flourish. What say you?