Even state Rep. Seth Grove was surprised how quickly his property tax reform bill cleared the House of Representatives.
"It shows the want of the House to tackle the issue," the Dover Township Republican said. "We've been screaming about it for a long time ... and there was huge bipartisan support to finally move this forward."
Grove deserves a lot of credit for leading the charge on behalf of taxpayers over the years -- not just for property tax reform, but in other ways, such as eliminating exemptions for school districts to go over their state-mandated tax caps.
The Optional Property Tax Elimination Act, which now heads to the Senate, is the latest version of a tax reform bill he's been working on for years.
Its key feature is that school districts don't have to adopt it if they don't want to, allowing it to earn support of lawmakers whose constituents benefit from the current school funding system.
Under the bill, any school district can implement an additional earned income tax, mercantile tax or business privilege tax to reduce the property tax rate by up to 100 percent. Personal income taxes, which include money earned on investments, could be added if school districts wanted to take the issue to voter referendum.
The money raised by shifting taxes would be used on a dollar-for-dollar basis to reduce the school district millage rate. Districts that eliminate property taxes would not be able to raise the other taxes any more than would be allowed under the system that currently caps property tax increases.
After years of fruitless attempts to reform property taxes -- not just by Grove, but other legislators -- the bill passed remarkably fast through the House.
Grove introduced it just last summer.
It's that speed that makes us urge caution.
Yes, reform is long overdue, and Grove should be commended for his effort.
But we want to make sure this bill is fully vetted by an impartial party -- the state's Independent Fiscal Office or Department of Revenue, for example.
Good intentions can have unintended consequences, and the last thing we need is to act in haste and later find the bill actually made the situation worse for taxpayers.
That's what Grove discovered of the earlier version of his bill.
A closer inspection by area district business managers revealed individual tax burdens actually would increase under that earlier plan. That's because it would have eliminated property taxes for both businesses and residential owners. Since businesses don't pay personal income taxes, individuals' taxes would have gone up even higher to make up that difference.
Grove pulled the bill to address the problem, coming up with the mercantile or business privilege taxes.
He believes that will fix the problem, and we hope he's right.
It's now up to the Senate to take its time and make sure that's the case.