There are two versions of school property tax relief legislation jockeying for support in the state Capitol these days.
One -- sponsored by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover -- allows counties, municipalities and school districts to use a combination of sales and income taxes to lower property taxes by 30 percent or more and freeze them at that level.
The other -- House Bill 1776, also known as the Property Tax Independence Act -- completely eliminates school property taxes. It would fund public education by raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and expanding it to cover dozens of currently exempted items.
The pros and cons of each bill are still unclear.
Grove's bill might not completely eliminate property taxes. Certainly people on fixed incomes, like senior citizens would benefit from the shift, but it's possible middle-class wage earners would pay more.
While HB 1776 has the appeal of doing away with the hated property tax altogether, it's unknown whether a sales tax can completely replace the lost revenue. Also, support in the Legislature is uncertain, considering parts of the state are quite happy with the current school funding model.
We're simply happy lawmakers are finally taking another crack at property tax reform -- because Act 1 clearly isn't working.
That's the 2006 legislation that legalized slots casinos, with the promise that portions of the revenue would be used for tax relief.
Unfortunately, the aid has been paltry, barely keeping up with tax increases as more people sign up for the program.
The state recently announced the average amount homeowners can expect this year, and it's literally only pennies more than last year's "relief." The average for York County households will be $166.50 -- 21 cents more than last year's average.
Compounding our frustration is the fact Pennsylvania's 10 existing casinos last year did exceptionally well -- increasing revenue by 21.3 percent. That translated into a 10 percent boost in tax revenue.
"They've had a good run," said Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association. "The Pennsylvania market ... is one of the real success stories of the last couple of years."
Obviously, Act 1 has been very good for casinos.
So then why is this year's additional tax relief about the same as what we could find under a couch cushion?
State officials always come up with one explanation or another, but the fact is Act 1 is nothing more than a Band-Aid that's covering less and less of the wound.
What we need is comprehensive reform like Grove's bill, the Property Tax Independence Act or some other version altogether.
The key is to keep pressing our legislators until they get it right.