In effort to gauge response from the region's retail sector, York County Chamber of Commerce executives will soon survey its members about a proposed tax reform bill that could raise the local sales tax.
The legislation -- introduced by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township -- "seems like it has a chance of passing" and could reduce property tax bills by 30 percent while increasing sales tax by 1 percent, according to Bob Jensenius, executive vice president of the York County Chamber of Commerce.
They've already emailed to business constituents the watchdog information and links to legislation, but there's still work to be done, according to officials with the York County Economic Alliance, which was formed in January when the York County Economic Development Corp. and the York County Chamber of Commerce merged to further foster economic development.
While York County Economic Alliance officials and affiliates agree the bill would give voters a choice, through referendum, on how they wish to be taxed, they said questions loom about whether or not a 1 percent sales tax would change consumer patterns.
The bill's design may yield different sales tax rates in York's neighboring counties, as voters would make the decision on a county-by-county basis. Whether or not it would drive York shoppers to counties with a lower sales tax is one of the residual questions surrounding the proposal, possibly making retailers wonder if consumers would change their habits.
"It wouldn't change mine," Jensenius said. "But the business sector really needs to be heard. We really haven't heard from them yet."
Jensenius said questions about Grove's proposed legislation will be on the Chamber's annual business survey in May.
There are parts of the bill, officials agreed, that will "appease retailer groups," said Darrell Auterson, president and CEO of the YCEA.
Grove said his proposal is fair to businesses and includes provisions similar to those adopted by Allegheny and Philadelphia counties during their sales tax increases. For example, if you live in York County and go to Adams County to buy a car, you'll pay the same sales tax rate you would in York County.
York is a border county, and provisions protect local businesses and help them stay competitive with Maryland retailers by keeping food, clothing and prescription drugs tax free here.
"Hanover sees the most benefit, and we don't expect that to change," Auterson said.
While he doesn't expect much of a difference in consumer patterns, he acknowledged the difficulty of implementing change.
"There are always questions around anything new, but the benefits derived clearly offset any headaches," he said.
Overall, he said, it gives consumers more control of how they're taxed.
"(Retailers) may become apprehensive that consumers would change their shopping habits, but most (shoppers) aren't worried about a 1 percent increase."