GUEST VIEW: Property tax reform faces another climb |

ONCE AGAIN, State Rep. Frank Ryan deserves credit for tackling the ever problematic issue of school property taxes with a refreshingly honest approach.

The Lebanon County Republican is once again introducing legislation to eliminate school property taxes and change the way education is funded in Pennsylvania.

For many years, there has been a movement to stop relying on property taxes to fund schools. People are hit with bills of thousands of dollars every year. This is especially difficult for seniors on fixed incomes. In many cases, these people no longer have to make mortgage payments, so the tax bill is paid in one large lump sum each summer.

Although the idea of ​​eliminating the property tax is widely popular, especially in these areas, the idea continues to run into a few hiccups. This is first and foremost about providing a fair replacement for the income at stake and ensuring that it is as reliable a source of money as the property tax has been. The other issue is how to distribute revenues to school districts.

For starters, Ryan acknowledges that the complexity of the current school funding model has made it difficult to change. And he urges people to accept the reality that people will always have to pay taxes to fund education, no matter what system is in place.

“Everyone wants to get rid of property taxes as long as the other person is the one who is going to pay the replacement tax,” the Lebanon County Republican said as he introduced Bill 13. “Clearly any solution will require sacrifices from all Pennsylvanians.

It may not be what people want to hear, but it is the truth. To eliminate local property taxes, the state government would need to find $16 billion beyond its current contribution of more than $8 billion. There’s no painless way

Ryan’s bill is similar to legislation he has introduced before, without success. The legislation seeks to replace property tax revenues with sales and income taxes. This would raise state income tax to 4.92%, with those funds going to the local school district. The state sales tax would increase by 2%, with those funds going to each county to be allocated to school districts. Sales tax would be expanded to include clothing and food, with a food tax exemption for recipients of public assistance.

The bill would tax retirement income, excluding income from Social Security, military pensions and member contributions to retirement plans. Workers’ contributions to a pension plan would be tax deductible.

This is where things get tricky. A tax on retirement income is bound to be unpopular with seniors, even the riding most enthusiastic about eliminating the property tax. Taxing clothing and food is a regressive levy that would hurt vulnerable Pennsylvanians and negatively affect retailers in the state.

Having the state and counties dictate how much money each district gets takes away a key aspect of local control over education. A fixed income tax is unlikely to generate the revenue needed to meet rising costs over time. And given the state’s track record of funding education, we’re not convinced there will be an equitable distribution of resources any more than there is now. It could make things worse.

That’s not to say these ideas aren’t worth discussing. They are. Any solution is going to be painful for someone. But persuading people to accept this requires a steep climb.

We commend Ryan for pointing out that if the school property tax is eliminated, replacing lost income will require many Pennsylvanians to make sacrifices.

We agree that property tax has serious disadvantages, but we also believe that the state must ensure that there is enough money available for a solid education in all communities across our Commonwealth. We hope that Ryan’s insights will spark further discussion on how to solve both problems in a way that most of us can accept.

Reading Eagle | PA

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