property tax reform

A bill to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a 6-5 vote.

The “Property Tax Independence Act” would replace property taxes by increasing the state income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; sales tax would jump from 6 to 7 percent (8 percent in Allegheny County), together generating an estimated $12 billion for public schools annually.

But, Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the numbers don’t add up.

As state senators consider how to address problems with a plan to eliminate school property taxes, some say the issue is too vast to be addressed by the Legislature this fall.

The proposal would replace most school districts’ property tax revenue by increasing the personal income tax and expanding and boosting the state sales tax.

Republican state Sen. Dave Argall of Schuylkill County, the plan’s sponsor, notes that in the first year of implementation, such a shift would generate enough money for school districts.

Swapping school property taxes for increased sales and income taxes could be the solution for the decades-long battle over how to fund basic education in Pennsylvania.

A bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers unveiled the latest version of the Property Tax Independence Act on Tuesday.