Has the Governor crossed the line in the Property Tax Debate?

Has the Governor crossed the line in the Property Tax Debate?

http://www.poconorecord.com/article/20150527/NEWS/150529542

In a newspaper article in the Pocono Record during the Governor’s “Schools That Teach” tour, Governor Wolf met with school district officials and the article states

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

The increases in education spending over the years has not yielded any evidence of improving the actual education of our children.  Students are still graduating from high school and going to college with a need for remedial reading, math and science skills.  The drivers behind the increases is largely due to pension costs, rising medical costs.

There are many that tell us that if we fix the pension problem school taxes will stop increasing: that the pensions are the real problem.  I believe that this logic fails to understand that it is the school property tax that allowed these pensions to become the problem that they are and as long as it exists it will always be the excuse for the demands of Public Sector Unions who paid dearly to help get Governor Wolf elected to office.  They did so with money from our property taxes that allow them to collect union dues with our tax dollars or to make use of union  collected monies in ways that violates the rights of association of its members.  That’s apparently okay though because it’s our money their spending and it benefits the Public Sector Unions at our expense.  Without those generous protections from our legislators, the Public Sector Unions wouldn’t have nearly as much money to spend to finance re-election campaigns so our homes can continue to be exploited.

There are private and home schooled children who have surpassed public school children where far less is spent per student on education.  Each of those parents are also paying for that education as well as paying for public education through the school property tax.

For the homeowner, supporting public education through a property tax is not a choice.  We can not opt out.  It has become the loaded gun of a thief intent on stealing our property.  The stability of the property tax relies on our inherent right to property.  The Public Sector Unions have exploited that right just as the mobsters did in their extortion rackets demanding protection money for property.

John Locke wrote ” …tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. –When the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule; and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.”  (Second Treatise, §199)

Over the past few years we’ve heard many excuses in opposition of the school property elimination plan and frankly, many of those excuses were thinly veiled admissions of what Governor Wolf has just openly declared.  This is what was meant when Mr Woods testified before the house concerning property tax independence declaring that 10,000 people losing their homes each years is not a significant enough number to do something about it.  This is what is meant when Representative Benninghoff said at a town hall meeting that people lose their homes because they bought too much home.  This is what was meant when Rep. Evankovich asked how will we pay for the public sector union pensions if school property taxes are eliminated.  If the taxes have to increase so people lose their homes….so be it!

I have to ask this question, has the opposition become so arrogant and so bold that they no longer fear disclosing their actual sentiments?

This is also what it meant every time we hear the expression “the numbers don’t work!”  They don’t care if the numbers work for you and me.  They only care that the numbers work in a way that will continue to allow the Public Sector unions to spend the way they’ve been spending because it is their demands that are driving up the cost of education and more times than not, that money is not actually making its way into the classrooms.  It doesn’t mean the children are receiving a higher quality education, it just means that more money is being spent.

The numbers don’t have to work for you according to this outlandish statement.  If they want to spend more than you can pay, so be it….they’ll just take your home from you.  They’ll remove you and your family from your home, even families with children, all in the name of educating our children.  They’ll rip the homes right out from under the elderly who have worked their entire lives to provide for some security for themself and throw grandma out into the street all in the name of educating our children.  Does it matter of those actions disrupt the life a child?  Apparently not.

Renters fall under the mistaken notion that they aren’t paying property taxes but home many families see their rents increase as a result of property tax increases forcing them to move or to live in overcrowded housing conditions just so they can stay in that apartment.  What impact does this have on our children or doesn’t that mater?   According to the above statement and by the actions of many of our opposing legislators….apparently not.

Historically the School Property Tax has outpaced the actually state GDP and I have to wonder how long others think we can travel down that path before we become so lost in debt and so lost in the abused of people’s right to property before we actually do what needs to be done: Eliminate the School property Tax and end the extortion of property in the name of government and education.

Cumulative Growth Chart

Cumulative Growth Chart

There are other ways to fund education and its time we stop pillaging homes to do so.  Our homes do not provide an income for us.  Just because our home value may increase as inflation increases doesn’t mean we have more money to pay to the school districts.

A home is more than a piece of real estate to be gambled on with failed government spending programs and policies.  A home is treasure trove of memories: of cherished loved ones no longer with us and childhoods that have passed into adulthood; of family pets and family gatherings.   To have that ripped from us simply because the government wants a bigger slice of it is, to me, unconscionable.  It violates every sense of humanity in my being!  To rip a child from his home because his parents can’t keep up with the wants of the public sector unions and the legislators who’ll give them anything they want and then to do so in the name of educating that child again I have to ask….educate them to what?  That their life, their home and their family mean nothing to government because it wants to spend more than it already takes from us in a system that is now designed to dismiss the people and their rights in the name of profit and spending for some.

There is another point that many will miss in this article.  The school district budgets are supposed to be completed before the state budget is passed.  That state budget will then determine how much money the school districts will get directly from the state.  In the Lebanon City School District, this has allowed them to plan for less money, apply for Act 1 exemptions and get them and then to take that surplus money from the state and tuck it away in some rainy day fund rather than return that money to the people.  It allows then to use Act 1 exemptions in the claim of a shortfall to exceed the tax increase and then receive more money than their budget claimed with no accountability to that exemption.  The system is designed to work that way.  It is designed to allow for such abuse and it is the Property Tax that makes all of this possible.

The people making the determination of a qualification for Act 1 Exemptions are not elected.  They are appointed, at least the majority of them are appointed.  A Majority large enough to get what they want whenever they want it.  We call that the Department of Education and pardon me if I reflect on one of Thomas Jefferson’s grievances against King George in our Declaration of Independence…..”He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”  If that doesn’t perfectly describe the Administrative state of affairs in this Commonwealth and our Nation, nothing does.

This is because, unlike our household budgets where the budget is determined by how much we have, the school districts budgets are framed around how much they want to spend.  Some school districts are frugal, some school districts are careful with what they do with the public’s money but that’s not the case in all school districts because the system is designed to allow for such abuses.

Perhaps this will finally open up the eyes of the people of this Commonwealth.  Perhaps it will even open up the eyes of our Senate who now hold the fate of School Property Tax Elimination in their hands.  What they do in the upcoming weeks will determine the future of school property tax elimination, will they agree with Tom Wolf that people have to lose their homes to pay for education or will they finally stand up and uphold their oath to support and defend the Constitution of this Commonwealth.

Article I, Sec 1 Inherent rights of mankind: 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.

Exactly how does what Governor Wolf stated according to this article align itself to Article 1, Sec. 1 or doesn’t the Commonwealth Constitution or his oath of office matter?  Can we so openly and brazenly defy the Constitution as long as it allows for his commands and actions not being directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but to the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.

As far as I am concerned, the reduction bills are just smoke and mirror distractions that allow our legislators to hide behind a pretend tax reduction when in reality our PIT will increase as will our Sales/Use Tax and the property tax will remain, temporarily reduced, to buy them some time….not to cut spending but to continue to increase spending and bloat budgets until the property tax soon exceeds current levels with increased PIT and Sales taxes to pay.  In the process the cut the funding for HB/SB 76 through the Property Tax Independence Act and get the people of the state off their backs.

In doing so they have stopped protecting our property and exist only to protect the special interests that fund their campaigns as far as I am concerned.

This may not be affecting you….you may be in a position where you can still comfortably pay your school property taxes but there are many who aren’t and that number isn’t decreasing.  Others are leaving the state because they can no longer abide by the abuse of taxation in this Commonwealth.  I think of good friends I have already lost to another state and have heard from others who are considering doing the same.

For some, that’s not an option.  They can no longer afford to stay in their homes, they cannot afford to move and they are trapped.  That, Governor Wolf, is not an education choice….THAT IS TYRANNY!

John Adams said “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”

You can turn a blind eye to that if you wish but you won’t be able to keep that blind eye turned forever.  As the taxable base declines and the revenue continues to grow Pennsylvania will become a state where only those above the median household income levels will be able to afford housing….for now.  Those in the lower quadrant will soon find themself below the median household income and suffering the same fate.

In the process we will drive more below median household families into subsidized living which will require more revenue to sustain and continue, as we have seen, to increase the poverty level and lower the median household income.  It will also continue to drive up the cost of other essentials of living which will only require more government assistance programs until the system can no longer sustain itself.

We will continue to drive  business and job opportunities away from the state because it seems the only way they can get them here now is to give them tax incentives or fat subsidy checks at the expense of people whose homes earn them no income; we will be forced to continue to provide for subsidized exemptions and programs so farmers can keep their farms that is derived from everyone else’s taxes and we will continue down this redistributive path until there is nothing left to redistribute.

All we are doing in this process is creating more people dependent on the government for their survival and in that process we make them dependent upon the government for their very survival and that, no matter how you try to spin it is not compassion, it is not charity….it is slavery.

Reducing the size of the legislature….Be Careful What You Ask For!

We’ve all heard the mantra of smaller government but much of that chatter is a distortion of limiting the authority, reach and scope of government, not actually related to the size. Conservative advocates of reducing the size of the legislative body point to the savings but that’s a debatable point. Less legislators doesn’t necessarily translate into less expense. It means that there would be fewer legislators who would represent larger territories and that could translate into increasing offices and the necessary staff to maintain those offices.

There is even a greater danger. Less legislators means expanding their districts and that expansion could be gerrymandered in such a way that smaller more conservative districts would be swallowed up by larger less conservative areas effectively rendering the voice of the smaller communities silent.

We can see this in our federal representation to Congress where Charlie Dent and Ryan Costello were more dependent on the more liberal factions of the larger areas in their district. While they claimed pro-life positions when they ran for office, once elected they betray that position as we saw with their most recent vote.

We already complain that leadership in the Parties has too much power over the legislative bodies; less representatives only increases the potential for more power.

With less legislators there is also the potential of growing the administrative bodies and giving them more authority then they already have. The bodies are unelected and generally operate outside of the scrutiny of the public while having regulatory powers as well as the power to attach fees and fines.

Less legislators also translates into more money from lobbyists factions to be distributed through fewer legislators in their attempts at controlling elections. The boon to public sector union revenue by decreasing the size of the legislative body means that they can redirect money that is spread between several candidates and use the same amount of money on fewer candidates. Larger territories makes it harder for fiscally conservative candidates who aren’t being backed by party, corporate or union factions to generate the needed revenue to compete in those elections.

In a report from the Commonwealth Foundation from February of this year we are told:

According to the most recent state campaign finance reports, the PACs of seven Pennsylvania government unions donated more than $10.5 million to candidates in the 2013-2014 election cycle.

The bill passed in the House would cut House members by ¼ from 203 to 151. That gives these government union PACs the opportunity to take that 10.5 million and instead of spreading that over 203 races, to focus that money on only 151 races. If that 10.5 million is equally distributed to 203 campaigns, that translates into almost $52,000 per district. For 151 districts that translates into almost $70,000 per political campaign. Obviously they don’t need to pour that money into all the districts, just in enough districts to assure there are enough votes to go their way. Fewer Candidates and that means fewer districts to control. That also makes it much more difficult for more accountable people from the citizenry to rise up and oppose these powerful forces.

Making the legislators accountable for their own pensions, making the per diem system more accountable, essentially restoring the legislation body to its Constitutional limits of salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, would go a long way towards saving the same amount of money that we might see by reducing the size of the legislator…or better yet, what about a part-time legislative body at reduced salaries.

Does anybody have any doubt that if this is passed legislators wouldn’t think they deserve more money because they have larger districts which they’ll translate into greater responsibilities?

Be careful what you ask for! Smaller government isn’t really about limiting the power of government and we need to understand that it’s not really the size but the abuses of power that’s the problem. Putting that power in the hands of fewer people isn’t likely to reduce corruption. Instead it will just make it easier for the powerful to hide it.

Remember, the smallest form of government is a dictatorship. The further we get away from representative government the closer we draw towards absolute power in the hands of the few.