Friday, December 14, 2007

Tony Phyrillas: More promises of tax relief by Rendell

Excuse me if I don't jump up and down at the news that Gov. Ed Rendell's budget secretary says there is enough revenue coming in from casinos to begin offering property tax cuts in 2008 or 2009.

We've heard these promises before.

In 2002, Rendell, candidate for governor, promised to cut everyone's property taxes by 30 percent standing on his head.

In his first year in office, Rendell developed amnesia about property taxes. Instead, he increased the state income tax by 10 percent.

In 2004, Rendell promised property tax relief when he signed Act 72 into law. It didn't happen.

In 2005, Rendell developed amnesia again, but he did impose the $52-a-year payroll tax on just about every worker in the state.

In 2006, Rendell promised property tax relief when he signed Act 1 into law. Act 1 would have raised the income tax in return for lowering property taxes. Voters didn't buy into the tax-shift scheme. Another failed attempt at tax relief.

Here we are at the end of 2007 — five years into Rendell's term — and not one penny from gambling has been returned to Pennsylvania residents as property tax cuts.

The Legislature, which has House Bill 1275 (the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007) before it, failed to act on it before adjourning for its 32-day Christmas vacation.

Now we have a prediction from Rendell's budget chief that some homeowners will see property tax cuts at the end of 2008 or sometime in 2009 because gambling revenues have reached the minimum level to trigger tax cuts.

The operative word here is minimal. The state's six operating slot parlors have kicked in $506 million so far into a fund set up for property tax relief. The fund needs to reach $570 million by April in order for the state to begin distributing money to homeowners.

But Rendell promised $1 billion in tax relief when he signed the bill bringing casino gambling to Pennsylvania.

It will take several more years to reach that level. And we're talking about a few hundred dollars in tax reduction. So if you pay $3,000 in property taxes each year, you might get back $300. In the meantime, there's nothing to prevent your local school district from raising property taxes by hundreds of dollars ... year after year.

So pardon me if I don't do a jig. The promise of property tax cuts through gambling revenues is a mirage.

The only way to reform Pennsylvania's antiquated property tax system for funding public education is total elimination, which is what House Bill 1275 proposes.

Only 44 legislators (mostly Republicans) in the 203-member House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of HB 1275 so far.

If you live in any of the following Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, you might want to ask these legislators why they won't support the elimination of property taxes. None of the following are listed as co-sponsors of House Bill 1275:

BERKS COUNTY — David Kessler (D-130); Doug Reichley (R-134); Tim Seip (D-125)

BUCKS COUNTY — Paul I. Clymer (R-145); Gene DiGirolamo (R-18); John T. Galloway (D-140); Chris King (D-142); Anthony J. Melio (D-141); Bernie O’Neill (R-29); Scott A. Petri (R-178); Marguerite Quinn (R-143); Katharine M. Watson (R-144)

CHESTER COUNTY — Thomas Killion (R-168); Duane Milne (R-167); Chris Ross (R-158); Carole Rubley (R-157

DELAWARE COUNTY — William F. Adolph Jr. (R-165); Mario J. Civera Jr. (R-26); Robert C. Donatucci (D-185); Thomas H. Killion (R-168); Thaddeus Kirkland (D-9); Bryan R. Lentz (D-161); Nicholas A. Micozzie (R-163); Ron Raymond (R-162); Greg Vitali (D-166); Ronald G. Waters (D-191)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY — Lawrence Curry (D-154); Michael Gerber (D-148); Robert Godshall (R-53); Kate Harper (R-61); George Kenney Jr. (R-170); Daylin Leach (D-149); Kathy Manderino (D-194); Jay Moyer (R-70); Thomas Murt (R-152); Josh Shapiro (D-153); Rick Taylor (D-151); Mike Vereb (R-150)

For more information about HB 1275, visit the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition Web site at

If you want to see genuine property tax relief in Pennsylvania, you have to pressure your state legislators (especially the Democrats) to support House Bill 1275.

Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once again you are right on the money Tony. Every day I read in the news school districts raising property taxes. $1000 here $750 there - just today in the Reading Eagle reported "Shillington taxes to rise nearly 13 percent". It never stops. We (taxpayers) have a unique chance to put a stop to this with the House Bill 1275 you mention in this article. It just takes letting your State representatives know you want them to support this bill. I don't know about you, but I can’t afford more property taxes. I don’t want a few school board members dictating how much my takes will go up every year. I don’t want them spending my tax dollars on foolish financial decisions for the schools. I attend school board meetings, but rarely will they listen to reason. I am a big fan of House Bill 1275 and will promote it any way I can.