A week or so ago, I received an e-mail from eastern York County resident Jerry Abenshon prodding me to take a close look at House Bill 1776 -- that would be the legislation designed to abolish school property taxes.
Abenshon is fond of the bill and makes no bones about it.
In fact, he prefers it over a similar bill championed by York County lawmaker Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township -- HB 2230 -- by a mile. Or more.
And he makes no bones about that, either.
As it turns out, Grove is the state representative in the district in which I live. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't. In this case, I don't. Not entirely anyway. But he still gets an "A" for effort from me because at least he's trying to do something positive about property taxes.
That's more than I can say about most elected officials for the last two decades. They have talked a good game, but haven't improved the situation much.
In fact, Act 1, which was passed by the state in 2006, has done practically nothing to lessen our property tax burden.
We're all still paying county property taxes. We're all still paying municipal property taxes. And we're all still paying school property taxes which, while slightly lower due to gambling revenues, have continued to climb every year.
So now we're looking -- in an election year, of course -- at Grove's HB 2230 or HB 1776 (the Senate version of HB 1776 is SB 1400).
Abenshon wants me to read both versions and comment.
Be glad to do just that. And there's no better time to chime in than today, since there's going to be a rally in the State Capitol Rotunda on Monday at 10 a.m. in support of HB 1776 and SB 1400.
But first, a comment on Grove's HB 2230. One plus is that is applies to municipal and county governments, as well as school districts. That's a good thing.
It also keeps the new tax dollars collected in the local community. Another good thing.
It would allow a 1 percent sales tax at the county level, to be used exclusively for the reduction of school property tax millage rates.
And it would allow counties, municipalities and school districts to levy a local income tax -- a personal income tax or an earned income tax -- as a replacement for property taxes.
It also would force any taxing entity that chooses to use an income tax to freeze its property taxes at the current level.
But it does not necessarily eliminate property taxes. It reduces them by 30 percent to 100 percent, but leaves the door open to only a partial reduction.
And it doesn't require every county, municipality and school district in the state to play by the same set of rules -- they all get to determine their own taxing destiny.
Where would we be, I wonder, if we manipulated every state law to suit the needs of residents who live in one part of the commonwealth at the expense of everyone else?
On the other hand, HB 1776 -- also known as the Property Tax Independence Act -- would abolish school property taxes. For every property owner. In every nook and cranny throughout the state.
In one fell swoop, school property taxes would be gone.
It's still a tax shift, of course, because the money for education has to come from somewhere, but it is straightforward -- an increase of less than 1 percent in the state's personal income tax rate and a nudge in the state sales and use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.
And it would expand the list of formerly excluded sales tax items that would then be taxed.
But it's far from ideal. For one thing, the collection and control of all these new monies would be with state government. No local control. That makes me nervous.
For another, it doesn't eliminate all property taxes. So we'd all continue to receive county and municipal property tax bills.
True, they'd be a lot smaller than school taxes. But we'd still be getting taxed on the assessed value of our property. With me, it's the principle of the thing.
Jerry Abenshon won't like to hear this, I'm sure, because he favors HB 1776.
But I'm not convinced any of this legislation is the solution I'm looking for.
What I want is simple: Complete elimination of property taxes -- all forms of it. Period.
And I want school districts and other government bodies to be forced to live within the financial means of the taxpayers they represent.
If that means I pay a slightly higher tax on income and investments and a higher sales tax, so be it.
If I'm forced to make a choice, I'll take HB 1776.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.