The Fight For School Property Tax Elimination

Persistence Of Vision

I have occasionally been criticized because of my persistent effort to remained focused on eliminating property tax.

Recently my wife pointed out a page that analyzes Facebook posting over the last year to come up with the most used words on a person’s Facebook page.   The results:

facebook words

I guess that would verify the criticism and I don’t really mind.  Actually I guess I’m a little bit proud of that confirmation.

The fight to eliminate the school property tax has been a long struggle.  In a vehicle that eliminates the school property tax while trying to find the revenue necessary to replace that funding, we knew we were in for a challenge.

The Property Tax has been an protected institution that has allowed for a growth in a predatory industry that exploits the dangers of the property tax and people in those industries would much rather preserve the status quo that consider the fact that the tax forces tens of thousands of people out of their homes each year either through foreclosure, bankruptcy or actual tax seizure of property.

We live in a state with 350,000 abandoned properties.  We live in a state where the cost of maintaining this tax and its impact on the lives of good people has been largely ignored.

The constitutional right to be secure in our homes in this commonwealth has been sacrificed on the alter of self-serving interests who simply don’t care about the struggling homeowners in this state.   The fight against expanding the sales tax base can be summed simply by understanding that our opponents are saying they don’t care how many people get taxed out of their homes, just don’t tax those opponents.

As Senator Mike Folmer, an ardent support of elimination, expressed it “We are sacrificing principles on the altar of self-interest”.  And he’s absolutely right.

Granted they spin this to make it sound as though this is not what they are really saying but strip the opposition from their branded talking points and what they are saying is always the same thing.  They don’t care what happens to people and their homes.

Next week there is finally going to be a vote in the Senate on this important piece of legislation.   I want to remain hopeful but I also know that the opposition is ramping up their rhetoric.  School Administrators have been up at the Capitol lobbying against the legislation.  The taxes they are excploiting from homeowners paid for that lobbying effort unlike the rallies in support of of School Property Tax Elimination which were filled by people who had to take a day off work, often at a loss of pay, to demonstrate their support.

On Monday, the 16th of this month school aged-children were exploited by the PSBA.  Children who should have been in classrooms learning were exploited by using them to walk the halls of the Capitol carrying signs advancing the positions of the PSBA.   Once again, that’s your tax dollars hard at work.

We have seen the history of the school district property tax in this state where, in many cases, the burden of that tax has tripled in the last 20 years.   I spite of the fact that the School Property Tax Elimination bill caps future increases to the inflationary growth meaning each school district will receive dollar for dollar replacement of what they currently receive in the School property tax and they’ll receive future increases equivalent to the growth of the rate of inflation, they are unhappy and cry shortfall.

Understand, every time they yell shortfall they are telling you they plan on continuing this rapid and out of control spending and if that means the property tax has to triple again, they don’t care.  If that’s the case, that means they don’t care about renters and homeowners and that means, regardless of the much-abused “all about the children” claim….they really don’t care about the children in those homes either.  The children become the excuse to secure their own Rolls-Royce Healthcare and Retirement even if that means you have to surrender your home to them to do so.

I want to remain hopeful that we will see a victory in the Senate next week on this vote.  I also know that opposition is not below lying about this legislation and using campaign funding resources to pressure legislators to vote another way….isn’t that right Senator McGarrigle?

In spite of campaigning on his support of this legislation, which he apparently didn’t read; in spite of continuing in that support as late as April of this year; the Senator announced the other day that he was withdrawing his support of the legislation and his statements for his reasons are mirrors of talking points that have misrepresented the legislation.   He even used the “shortfall” claim.  Apparently the Senator thinks that school districts should be able to continue to spend until they once again triple the burden on the people in this commonwealth.

Senator McGarrigle can explain that shift of support to his constituents and since the mechanics of the bill has not changed during the time he claimed his support until now, it can’t be the bill that’s the problem even though that will be his reason….pardon me….his excuse!

The hope that I have on the passage of this legislation rests in several things.  First, a handful of Senators who had the courage to take on this issue in the beginning and keep fighting for it.  Secondly, a grassroots operation that was entirely self-funded that remained focused and driven to see this through to the end. That effort included the gathering of finances, mostly from small personal donation, to fund two billboards in Harrisburg to kick off this legislative season.

That grassroots effort was spearheaded by David Baldinger in the creation of a network that allowed people to go out and do what they do best in advancing this legislation.  His determination became a personal inspiration to me and I learned more than support for this legislation from him….far more.

Before the first vote is taken on this legislation I want my fellow grassroots advocates to understand what we have already accomplished.  We have taken an issue that just four years ago power legislators and the lobbyists who fund their campaigns didn’t want to talk about and we made them talk about it.  So much so that it became the centerpeice of the budget negotiations this year.

In every newspaper article I’ve read on this issue, the subject or property tax is right there.  I don’t ever recall budget negotiations in the past was this could be said.   That was the result of the effort and push from grassroots across this state.  Don’t miss that point.

That would not have happened without the grassroots’ efforts.

The various “reduction bills” that sought to destroy the funding mechanisms of HB/SB 76 also arose from our opposition in their efforts to protect the predatory institutions that see our homes as something to exploit.  They claim that at least they tried to give us something but the voters have grown very wise to the deception after years of the same lie being told to them.  A reduction plan is just a bill that temporarily slows the bleeding but that bleeding will be made up for or must likely accelerated in future increases in the school property tax.  They thought they could try the same old same old and the voters would fall for it.

Like the snake-oil salesmen some of our legislators really are, they advocate and advance making promises they know won’t be delivered on.  You simply cant claim a 35% reduction when 12.7 billion dollars is needed and the reduction tax shift only generates 1.4 billion in new revenue. That’s $2.6 billion less than the 4 billion that would be needed just to generate a 33% reduction.  Still they make the claim and only the foolish believe them.

Our opponents have excuses that they try to pass as reasons.  After all, every time they tell us about the shortfall they are reminding each and everyone one of us that they plan on allowing spending like they spent before and will ardently fight against any effort to restore property ownership to it’s rightful place, the homeowner.  They are reminding us that they will fight to preserve the feudalistic notion of school district lord and their rental serfs who must pay their annual allegiance by surrendering up a greater and greater piece of their home.

To my grassroots friends who have fought this fight: Thank you.   You know who you are. I don’t have time or the space to thank you all personally.  I want you to know that we are about to see this vote and the role you have played on getting us here is monumental in its scope.

You’ve accomplished that regardless of no PAC funding, no huge campaign funders, but on your dime because of your effort and because of your commitment.

That’s not a reason to prematurely celebrate but it is a reason to believe that you can help get this over the finish line.  Don’t give up!   Keep this fight moving forward and remind them all that we are watching….watching very, very closely.

Help us all get this vote so that maybe next year the words on that Facebook survey of most used words pictured above says something else.

In all honesty though, I doubt those words will change much.  While this is a major step in restoring property rights to the individuals, we still have a long way to go to finish the job!  It will take a persistence of vision and if this struggle is any indicator….it’s a job that can be done!








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