It was a good day for corporations that own land in Pennsylvania; not so much for individual Pennsylvanians who eat food and earn money.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 6-5 on Sept. 16 to advance SB 76 to the Appropriations Committee, often a bill’s last stop before the full Senate takes up consideration of it.
Voting to advance the property tax elimination bill were: Republican Senators Mike Brubaker of Lancaster County, Pat Browne of Lehigh County, John Eichelberger of Blair County and Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County; and Democratic Senators John Blake of Lackawanna County, and John Wozniak of Cambria County.
Voting against SB 76 were Republican Senators Pat Vance of Cumberland County, Stewart Greenleaf of Montgomery County, and Scott Hutchinson of Venango County; and Democratic Senators Rob Teplitz of Dauphin County, and Matt Smith of Allegheny County.
The bill’s supporters will tell you that SB 76 would eliminate property taxes. What they are less vocal about is how it would make up that lost revenue.
SB 76 would raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and expand the tax to cover such currently non-taxable items and services as food, non-presciption medications, garbage collection, funeral expenses, child care and non-housing charges at many nursing facilities, among other things. Many business-to-business services would be exempt from the sales tax.
The bill also would increase the personal income tax from 3.07% to 4.34%.
So SB 76 would be a true tax cut only for corporations and large businesses that would no longer have to pay local property taxes. For the rest of us, it would merely be a tax shift, and to some pretty essential items and services at that.
But worst of all, SB 76 would hurt Pennsylvania’s public schools. It would make permanent recent state cuts to education. It would drain billions of dollars from schools in future years by artificially capping state education funding at levels unrelated to actual costs. And it would undermine local control of schools and hand over funding decisions to Harrisburg.
It’s not too late to stop SB76. Watch this blog for further updates on the bill’s status.
In the meantime, here’s PBPC’s statement on the Senate Finance Committee’s action.