If you went to the doctor with symptoms of cancer and all your doctor did was keep prescribing Tylenol to manage the pain, how long would you keep going back to that doctor?
After reading Senator Scott Wagner’s post following the vote on SB76 last Monday evening I have to tell you all that I can’t help but feel he’s buying into the Tylenol mentality without the emphasis on the actual disease.
Property Tax is the disease and the School Property Tax Elimination is the major step in curing the disease. As with any disease there are symptoms but the symptoms are not the actual disease. They are the result of the disease. You certainly want to treat the symptoms but without curing the disease those symptoms or others will just keep coming back. In fact, prescribing a painkiller instead of treating the actual disease can actually further aggravate the disease while creating new problems.
We have 350,000 abandoned properties in the Commonwealth. 10,000 people uprooted by property seizures each year and those numbers are growing. Thousands more are impacted by foreclosures and bankruptcy. For over a decade we have been treating symptoms by providing artificial relief while ignoring the root cause of the problem. In treating those symptoms, things have gotten worse even to the point of a growing number of people in this Commonwealth leaving the state to find the cure to the property tax malady.
One of the fixes was the creating of the KOZ’s (Keystone Opportunity Zones). This provided business with a tax exempt status, mostly related to blighted properties and we know they work as long as the tax exempt status remains but as soon as the tax exemption is lifted many of the businesses move somewhere else. The revenue that was supposed to be generated by property tax to local schools and communities from these KOZ’s is picked up by everyone else allegedly as an investment in the future. Unfortunately far more times than not there is no return on that investment. The state however is still picking up the PIT tax from the employees. The county, municipal and school district still gets their revenue by spreading it around on everyone else so who is the loser? The answer should be obvious, the homeowners are the losers. They pay more so others don’t have to and when the time comes that should bring some form of property tax relief to the homeowner, the business is gone and so is the supposed investment made by the people.
When the doors close on that business, the tax burden doesn’t decrease. It continues and increases. The supposed reason for the exemption through a KOZ is to create jobs in our communities which should grow the tax base but that’s not what we seeing, at least not permanently. It’s a temporary fix that places more financial burden on others who may actually lose their home due to the increases to pick up that burden.
The countless exemptions and relief offered by the state through their programs isn’t really helping the average homeowners. School Property Tax increases continue to out pace the relief so once again we get a temporary solution that isn’t addressing the actual problem.
Instead of helping the sad state of affairs of business and the economy of this state its made things worse.
The Property Tax is at the root of the problem. Yes I realize that the pension debacle, prevailing wage, healthcare costs and other unfunded mandates have come down from the state and it’s possible that we could give it a Tylenol Fix to temporarily ease the pain but when do they ask the real question. What enabled these things to become the problem they have become?
During the House hearings on HB 76 Rep. Eli Evankovich asked if we eliminate the school property tax, how will we pay for the pensions. Putting that in a context the we can all understand he’s really saying that without the property tax, the state would have to deal with the problem they created. With the property tax they can just keep passing the burden down to homeowners. When the legislative body body kicks the can down the road, that a kick in out butt!
The fact of the matter is that taxation from any form of government has to exist within the means of the people to pay that tax. A PIT and Sales tax does just that. Both taxes are one time taxes based on new income and new purchases. The Property Tax isn’t based on an individuals ability to pay. It is based on assumed estimate of a home’s worth determined by flawed calculations that, in every county-wide assessment, continues to prove how flawed this system is in evaluating home worth.
We’ve heard the naysayers use the excuse that the reason for the loss of homes is that people bought too much home. Simple question here: If a business can’t afford to pay the property taxes on that business, aren’t they buying too much business? Why do we exempt them through KOZ’s but when it comes to homeowners this lame excuse is thrown around.
In a down economic time, people see income loss through less hours or even being laid-off. That reduces PIT income as well as Sales Tax income. In these times however the school property taxes have actually increased only making recovery harder for the homeowners and thereby making it harder for the state to recover. Even though home values decrease during these times, the school districts just raise the millage rates instead of adjusting the tax to reflect ability to pay, the burden is increased. They reject ability to pay and they do so because they can. They do so because of the way the property tax works. Its the Property Tax that is the problem.
Frankly, without the property tax, especially the school property tax, I strongly doubt we would have seen the pension expansion, the ridiculous prevailing wage laws or even entertaining the notions that tax-payers should be paying taxes to allow the school districts and not the unions to collect union dues.
On Monday night November 23, 1/2 of The Senate voted to uphold the status quo of pursuing Tylenol solutions to a disease that has infested the Commonwealth. The talking points of the opposition used the misrepresentation of the talking points of the powerful conservative and progressive lobbyists in the Commonwealth and we might all be asking why.
Lobbying is a lucrative business and they aren’t really interested in finding solutions. Putting band-aids on the problem is job security for them. If the problem is actually solved what is there to lobby for. All too often they exist to create distractions for us all to keep us from getting to actual solutions to problem and the more powerful the lobbying efforts, the less we, as a people, seem to see accomplished. All too often when a solution is on the horizon to a specific problem, the lobbyists will stir up a dust storm to distract us away from remaining focused on staying the course.
Throughout the debate on Property Tax Elimination a myriad of outside and peripheral problems has remained the focus while not talking about what is really happening in this Commonwealth. We have a Constitutionally protected right to be secure in our homes and that can only happen when taxation is based on ability to pay, not on somebody’s guess of assumed wealth because of a house. It spits in the face of the American Dream of Homeowners to create an instability for a large number of Pennsylvanians to provide security for a smaller number and no matter how you spin that….its tyranny. It’s feudalism of a system of serfs and lord where the serfs are little more than collateral damage to satisfy the wants of the lords. 1/2 of the Senate agreed to perpetuate that system.
It seems then that Pennsylvanians have a choice to make. We can keep going to the same doctors and getting the Tylenol Fix or we can change doctors. There’s only two ways to do that and one is to move to another state. Many who can afford to do so will, just as they have been doing in the past.
The other option is to take this to the ballot box. If they voted to maintain the status quo they voted to keep you as a serf in their feudalistic world. If you keep them in office, you have only yourself to blame but your unwillingness to change the status quo makes the rest of us in this state suffer.
In my opinion, its time to change doctors. Actually, its long past time. I prefer the ousting of seated legislators who would rather read the lobbyist talking points than engage in a discussion with their own constituents about the problems they face and lets admit it to ourselves: If our legislators aren’t holding townhalls where they take questions from us to hear our concerns, they aren’t representing us, regardless of what they tell us on the campaign trail. If they are more concerned with entertaining the Country Club Friends or attending lobbyist fundraising efforts that the average citizen in the Commonwealth can’t afford it is impossible for them to represent you.
We have a responsibility to become more engaged and we have a responsibility to tell the incumbent who looks at Pennsylvania taxpayers as collateral damage to a flawed system of taxation where to go, and that means someplace other than returning to their legislative office.
The Property tax created the mess that others claim to want to fix through Tylenol solutions to maintain their job security. Its time for all of us to tell them that unless they are working to cure the disease, they are in the way and its time for them to move on.
If you really want to see prevailing wage reform, paycheck protection, a real pension fix, and finally fixing the unfair 1991 funding formula there’s only one way to force those issues to be solved instead of being band-aided to death…..Eliminate the School Property Tax, restore security to homeowners and the rest will follow because the Property Tax is no longer there to feed the disease.
Let’s also understand that this is not a Democrat vs Republican issue. People in both parties are falling victim to the failed tax policies of this state. This isn’t the left vs the right. This is an empire that enables unethical practices made legal by a corrupted system that ignores their responsibility to ensure the protected right espoused in our Commonwealth Constitution. Both Republicans and Democrats have violated their oath of office. In doing so they are dancing on the backs of the people while being entertained by the campaign funding lobbying machines. It’s time to give any legislator who prefers that lifestyle over standing up for the people in this Commonwealth a pink slip.