Editorial: Property tax relief must be done right
- Many are in favor of property tax relief legislation.
- We agree.
- The plan must be implemented correctly or could do more harm than good.
School property tax-relief legislation defeated in the Senate in 2015 is being reintroduced by a Republican senator from Schuylkill County who says he is championing the effort on behalf of taxpayers.
Those taxpayers, he said, should not have to worry about being taxed out of their homes.
Sen. David Argall also responds to concerns around the legislation, including worries by school administrators that, under the plan, there might be challenges around annual budgeting.
Furthermore, under the plan, a school district’s debt must be paid off before residents feel the full impact of the property relief.
Still, the bill is popular with many, specifically senior citizens, who say the property-tax burden is becoming impossible to shoulder.
The key to any well-intended legislation is in the details. As local superintendents told a panel in February, they aren’t opposed to property tax relief, either — they just want it done right so they aren’t faced with unintended shortfalls they have no funding to cover.
And it’s not as if the state Legislature has never passed well-meaning laws that create burdensome conditions and unintended consequences.
Many argue that child-protection laws enacted in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State sex-abuse case were done so with good intentions but placed huge burdens on county child, youth and family agencies, schools and other institutions who were made to implement more oversight and abuse reporting without adequate additional funding to support the mandates.
That’s why we believe the property tax-relief legislation must be carefully written and implemented.
Another recent issue transpired involving state unemployment call-center workers, 500 of whom were laid off because of lack of state funding to their centers. Sen. Scott Wagner, Gov. Tom Wolf and others argued over who was responsible for allowing funding requests to go unfulfilled after Senate Republicans refused to vote on a bill to extend more funding.
The state is now suing IBM over implementation of technology upgrades to call centers, an issue central to the layoffs.
"Pennsylvania taxpayers paid IBM nearly $170 million for what was supposed to be a comprehensive, integrated and modern system that it never got,” Wolf said in a statement. “Instead, the Department of Labor and Industry has been forced to continue to support many of its UC program activities through a collection of aging, costly legacy systems, incurring tens of millions of dollars in server, support and maintenance costs."
So there is reasonable concern that this legislation will be written, implemented and reviewed properly to ensure districts are adequately funded.
Feel-good legislation might be a good political platform and might genuinely be something lawmakers believe in.
Many taxpayers also feel it’s urgently needed, and we agree.
That's why lawmakers must take their time, do it right, follow through and follow up to ensure we’re not cleaning up the mess of another well-meaning piece of legislation that cost more than we bargained for.