The future of a locally supported bill to eliminate property taxes is up in the air after being unexpectedly tabled last week in the House Finance Committee, but supporters are still hoping the measure can rebound.
House Bill 1776, the Property Tax Independence Act, was tabled by a bipartisan vote of 13-11. There are no York County legislators on the committee, but every member of the county's delegation has said the bill had potential to address local concerns about increasing property taxes.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks County, would eliminate school district property taxes and replace the funding with an increase in sales and personal income taxes.
Cox, who is on the finance committee, said the biggest complaint about the bill was that "the numbers don't add up."
He ran numbers to estimate how much the personal income tax and sales tax would have to rise to cover the cost of eliminating property taxes, but there was never "an actual study" by the state's Independent Fiscal Office or the
House Appropriations Committee, he said.
In the finance committee, an estimate from the state's Department of Revenue showed Cox's estimate was $900 million short of breaking even. He argued the personal income tax could be increased to compensate for the shortfall, but the committee instead voted to table the legislation.
The action, he said, didn't "kill" the bill, "it was really more like giving the bill a heart attack."
He said he's hoping special hearings can be held over the Legislature's summer break, helping the bill to convalesce.
"I will continue to fight for movement until the end of session and start again next session if I need to," he said.
Saylor's view: Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said he wasn't expecting 1776 to be tabled in committee, though there was "anger back and forth about delaying" the bill until the revenue questions could be cleared.
The strategy now is to let tempers cool and see whether the legislation can move forward, he said, and it's a positive development just to have so much attention focused on property tax reform.
"I want rid of (property taxes)," he said. "That hasn't changed for me. It's time to move onto income taxes."
Some hearings could be held on 1776 over the summer, but focus could also shift to other pieces of reform legislation, including House Bill 2230, he said. The bill was authored by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, and calls for shifting property taxes to a personal or earned income tax and sales tax.
Saylor said 2230 needs some tweaking, and it isn't expected to come up for vote until the next session.
'Disappointed': The move to table House Bill 1776 disappointed local taxpayer groups that support the legislation.
Joel Sears, head of the York County Taxpayers Council, said he's discouraged by the bill being tabled but he's hoping summer hearings will keep it alive.
The York 912 Patriots, the local arm of the tea party, chartered a 47-seat bus for a rally in support of the bill earlier this year, said Lee Ann Burkholder, communications director.
"We're pretty disappointed," she said. "We don't have very high hopes of it passing even after this summer."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.