Lawmakers making bipartisan effort to eliminate school property taxes

Senate bill would shift to income, sales taxes

Senate property tax bill

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Republicans and Democrats have joined forces in an effort to pass a property tax reform bill passed in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Their goal is to eliminate school property taxes for the state's 500 public school districts.

They didn't get the job done in 2015, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying again, pushing for a plan to get rid of school property taxes. It's called Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act.

The bill would replace the revenue generated by the property tax for public schools with an increase to the personal income tax rate from about 3 percent to about 5 percent and an increase in the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent in most areas.

Right now school property taxes are rising rapidly in the state, and lawmakers said they want to bring relief.

"We're very confident that this will allow us to eliminate the school district property tax over time and would get a dollar for dollar replacement over their current revenues from the property tax," said state Sen. David Argall.

The bill has eight major lawmakers behind it split equally along party lines.

"We're trying to keep the Republican, Democrat battle out of it," said Argall, a Republican who represents Berks and Schuylkill counties. "This really is a bipartisan bill."

If the measure becomes law, it means residents could pay taxes on goods and services like groceries, clothing and basic cable. It's essentially shifting billions of dollars in taxes from property owners, including businesses to Pennsylvania consumers and workers through sales and personal income taxes.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Berks Democrat, said lawmakers have a lot of work ahead of them.

"They are getting tired of hearing excuses necessarily, but we're talking about replacing $13.5 billion."

The measure was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

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