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When evaluating any property tax reform plan, one of the key considerations is ensuring homeowners receive permanent relief. Anything less than the total elimination of property taxes will inevitably lead to homeowners being engulfed in a tidal wave of painful tax increases over the next several years.
During a budget hearing with representatives from the Department of Revenue, Acting Secretary Eileen McNulty acknowledged the fact that the governorís plan doesnít prevent property taxes from increasing in the future. No matter how the Administration tries to spin the issue, there is no way taxpayers will come out ahead if they are forced to trade permanent increases in the sales tax and the personal income tax in exchange for a temporary property tax cut.
My exchange with Secretary McNulty is available here.
One of the most troubling problems with the governorís temporary property tax relief plan is the disparity in how property tax cuts are distributed. The vast majority of school district taxpayers in the 29th Senatorial District would pay more under this partial property reduction plan; in fact, a preliminary analysis shows that taxpayers in 17 out of 21 school districts would pay more.
Another review of the governorís plan indicates that school districts represented by Democrats do much better than school districts represented by Republicans. The distribution method creates a situation in which very wealthy individuals in one zip code could receive a large property tax cut, while a middle class homeowner in a nearby zip code could get much less relief. Itís hard to see how such a plan could pass the Constitutional mandate of providing a thorough and efficient system of public education with a uniform system of taxation.
I raised these and other issues during a budget hearing with Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. Video of my questions is available here.
Many local employers have reported an increase in the number of part-time jobs and a corresponding decrease in full-time positions due to health insurance mandates under Obamacare. This situation warrants further study on the local and statewide level in order to determine whether this evidence is anecdotal, or representative of a larger problem.
I raised these concerns during a budget hearing with the Department of Labor and Industry this week. In addition, I questioned the Departmentís enforcement activities to try to eliminate unfair competition from out-of-state companies in the household goods moving industry. Many out-of-state companies are not required to conform to the same standards as Pennsylvania-based companies, creating an uneven playing field for Pennsylvania businesses.
Both issues were discussed in the video available here.
One of the primary focuses of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee over the past several years has been combating blight. The dangers associated with blight have been well-documented, and the General Assembly has made significant strides toward providing municipalities with the tools they need to help deal with this problem.
In speaking with Acting Secretary of Banking & Securities Robin Wiessmann this week, I explored the possibility of creating an expedited process to foreclose on blighted structures to help municipalities deal with these dangerous, financially draining eyesores. Video of our discussion on this issue is available here.
A number of local municipalities have reported public infrastructure damage due to winter weather. Following two brutally cold winters, water mains and other utility lines have been subjected to a great deal of stress that often require expensive repairs.
Representatives from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency detailed many of the potential remedies for these problems during a hearing this week. Video of their testimony is available here.
In addition to the issues of uniformity and permanency of relief under the governorís property tax plan, the impact of the proposal has raised concerns in the agriculture community. The property tax burden is one of the most challenging factors for many family farms, but very little relief in the governorís plan is targeted to rural communities.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has spoken out in opposition to the governorís plan due to the unfairness in how tax relief is distributed. Acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding spoke about the need to explore viable alternatives to the governorís proposal in order to ensure the agriculture community receives true relief from the property tax burden. Video of our discussion on this topic is available here.
A recent $2 million project completed by the Ridgeview Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Shenandoah in partnership with the Veterans Administration in Wilkes-Barre and Lebanon will help better serve our veteran population. In discussing this issue with representatives from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, I urged the Department to explore similar ways to partner with the private sector to provide the services veterans need and deserve at a reduced cost.
I also requested an update on DMVAís efforts to protect members of the military in light of recent threats against service members by terrorist groups. Video of our conversation is available here.
Over three weeks, I focused on issues important to Schuylkill and Berks Counties during these hearings. My main concern is how the governorís proposed budget will impact residents.
You can watch all of my questions before during the Senate Appropriations
Committee public hearings on the Governor Wolfís Fiscal Year 2015-16 state