Groundhog Day

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” weatherman Phil Connors played by Bill Murray relives the same day again and again:  an estimated 12,403 days, or about 34 years.  Many taxpayers feel they’re reliving “Groundhog Day” due to the lack of action to eliminate school property taxes.

If you google the definition of “elimination” you’ll find it’s “the complete removal of something” and the dictionary gives an example:  “the elimination of extreme poverty is a key objective.”  My ongoing advocacy in support of Senator Argall’s Senate Bill 76 is to reach the much needed and long overdue goal of eliminating school property taxes, which I believe is an essential need for the taxpayers of this Commonwealth.

I recently reviewed other Senate bills on property taxes and I found over twenty introduced, including:  county sales, personal income, or earned income taxes for reductions in both property taxes and other taxes; banning spot appeals of property assessments; clarifying farmers’ “clean and green” programs that allow for deferral of property taxes; senior citizen property tax freezes; disabled veterans and surviving spouse exemptions; mobile home and trailer exemptions; cutting firefighters’ property taxes; clarifying eligibility for tax or rent rebates; expanding gaming for tax relief; voter referenda on school property tax increases; a Constitutional Amendment for a homestead exemption; property assessments promoting clean energy, and; rebates to eliminate school property taxes for 60% of homeowners.

However, there’s just one bill that provides for the total elimination of school property taxes:  Senate Bill 76.

SB 76 does this through dollar-for-dollar replacement of existing school property taxes by expanding the Personal Income Tax and the Sales Tax.  Despite what opponents claim, the numbers add up – it works.

Senate Bill 76 would result in immediate and significant reductions in school property taxes:  the average reduction statewide would be 80% and once existing school debts are repaid, there would be 100% elimination of all school property taxes.

Eighty percent average and immediate reductions in school property taxes and 100% elimination upon repayment of outstanding school debts.  That’s why supporters are so passionate:  they want total elimination of school property taxes – not partial elimination or total elimination for some but not all taxpayers – but total elimination of school property taxes for all taxpayers.  That’s what Senate Bill 76 does.

Like Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day,” advocates want this story to end – no more “I’ve Got You Babe” on the radio or elected officials who say they support total elimination of school property taxes but won’t support SB 76 or say there’s a better plan.  Other measures have been promised or introduced but just one provides for the total elimination of school property taxes:  Senate Bill 76.

Three Special Sessions of the General Assembly have focused on property taxes and just one bill was signed into law and one proposed constitutional amendment was sent to the voters –which they overwhelmingly rejected – likely because it was so complicated and provided just partial, not total, elimination of property taxes.

Other attempts to reduce property taxes have also failed because they didn’t reach the much needed and long overdue goal of eliminating school property taxes.

Despite my calls for alternatives to Senate Bill 76 to eliminate school property taxes, we have seen none.  There’s just one providing for the total elimination of school property taxes:  Senate Bill 76.

It took Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” 12,403 days, or just under 34 years to get out of Punxsutawney.  Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to suffer the same fate.  It’s time to pass Senate Bill 76 because no tax should have the power to leave you homeless.