For decades, small pockets of lawmakers, property owners and education activists have been pushing to end the use of property taxes to fund education in Pennsylvania, and now a local lawmakers is hoping to forward the debate with fresh legislation.
On average, school districts in the United States pulled 44 percent of their funding in 2011 from local sources, and most often that funding came from property taxes. In that same year, districts in Pennsylvania turned to local sources for 57 percent of their revenue, which is the fourth highest percentage in the country.
“It’s antiquated, it’s unfair, and we need a change,” said State Sen. Jim Brewster (D- Allegheny) who has co-sponsored legislation that would eliminate property taxes for school funding and replace it with additional sales and personal income taxes.
“It is going to be a difficult transition, it's not going to be easy, it's not as easy as some people think, but it is do-able,” Brewster said.
Currently, school districts in the state collect $8-9 billion a year through property taxes. Senate Bill 76 would increase the state’s sales tax by 1 percent to 7 percent and increase the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent.
“There will be amendments and there will be suggestions and ideas and opportunities that someone will bring to the table, but if we don’t get the bill out there and get the discussion started we’re never going to get it done,” Brewster said.
In recent years, several lawmakers have made similar attempts to eliminate property taxes, including one effort to change the state’s constitution. All efforts have either been voted down or never called for a vote.