York won't see a hotel tax increase or additional CRIZ designations until at least September after a state House of Representatives session scheduled for next week was canceled Thursday.
"That's very unfortunate," said Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, I'm very disappointed."
The session was largely to vote on House Bill 1177, which would help fund Philadelphia schools with a tax on cigarettes and includes amendments that would allow York County to raise its hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.
An additional Senate amendment allows for three more City Revitalization Improvement Zones to be named in 2014 and another two zones in 2015. The CRIZ program aims to attract businesses and jobs to cities by offering developers state and city tax revenue to pay off project debt.
But debate on all of that will be on hold until Sept. 15, when the General Assembly is back for the fall session, said Steve Miskin, spokesman for Speaker of the House Sam Smith, R-Armstrong/Indiana/Jefferson counties.
Policy review: One of the reasons for canceling the session is that the amendments, which were added by the Senate and need House approval, were never studied in House committee meetings, Miskin said.
The legislation that created CRIZ establishes a possible second round of designations for 2016, followed by one designation each year after that. The Senate amendment would speed up that process. York City is hoping to get that designation.
"The expediting of that and adding the hotel tax is something that hasn't been vetted in the House," Miskin said.
But Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said both issues should be familiar to legislators.
"I would say it's been vetted," Grove said. "I think everybody understands hotel taxes and CRIZes. It's not a new concept and it's been on the books for a while now."
Gillespie echoed Grove's remarks.
"I'm ready to vote on it. We need to move it along," he said. "I was ready to go and address these issues on Monday."
Legislator reluctance: Instead, Grove said the sessions were likely canceled because many House members were hesitant to come back for a bill that gives a major funding boost to Philadelphia schools, but not others.
Grove and House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, released a statement Wednesday that chastised the emphasis on the cigarette tax while doing nothing to benefit property tax owners in the other "99 percent" of the state.
"I think a lot of people realized that," Grove said.
The House and Senate leaders have requested Gov. Tom Corbett advance the Philadelphia School District the money it needs in order to open on time, according to a release from Rep. Smith.
The cigarette tax within Philadelphia limits would generate $1.6 million per week for Philadelphia schools, according to the release.
In addition to the bill, Smith said public pension reform will also be addressed during the September session.
— Staff Writer Greg Gross contributed to this report. Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.