Senate Democrats Wednesday held a press conference to release a letter from Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) requesting Gov. Tom Wolf to declare a special session of the General Assembly to consider property tax reform or elimination measures.
Senate Democrats said Gov. Wolf should call a special session of the General Assembly to ensure that legislation that results in significant property tax relief or total elimination is passed and signed into law this session.
“We believe there should be a full, complete and transparent discussion of any and all tax relief or elimination proposals,” Sen. Costa said. “A special session provides the kind of platform that is needed for citizens and lawmakers to understand specifics about each proposal.”
Leading the call for the special session, Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) said, “Relief from property tax needs to be addressed without delay.”
In the letter to the governor, the Democrats stated, “Our taxpayers have waited far too long for action on this important issue. They want lawmakers to set aside partisan agendas and enact a significant property tax reform or elimination measure--NOW.”
Working families are struggling to pay mortgages and save for college for their children while seniors have to scrape resources together to make ends meet; property taxes add to their burden, the letter said.
Sen. Boscola, who has been a long-time advocate of property tax elimination and relief, said that “my goal is to pass legislation that will eliminate the property tax and replace it with a better system to fund public education. Our homeowners deserve it and our children need it.”
Another strong proponent of calling the special session is Senate Democratic Whip Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia).
“Addressing property tax relief or elimination needs to be a top priority, but is critical that we look at all the plans closely and find common ground,” Sen. Williams said. “A special session will force the General Assembly to focus on the issue, act assertively and come forward with a proposal that is balanced and equitable.
“Our property taxpayers have waited long enough.”
Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) endorsed the call for a special session.
“The issue of property taxes has been a top priority for Pennsylvanians, many of whom have seen significant tax increases over the past few years,” Sen. Hughes said. “This special session would serve as an opportunity to thoroughly examine how we can provide the sustainable property tax relief that Pennsylvanians want and deserve while ensuring that our school districts are still properly funded.”
Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) said that a special session will allow lawmakers to fashion a plan that strikes a balance between property tax relief and reliable state support for public education.
“For many Pennsylvanians – particularly our seniors and lower income property owners – there is a very real school property tax crisis. I remain committed to a responsible solution that can significantly reduce and, if possible, eliminate the property tax burden on these lower income property owners,” Sen. Blake said. “I believe strongly that a special session on property tax reform can finally allow the legislature to strike the appropriate balance between property tax relief and the assurance of sufficient, predictable and reliable state financial support for public education.”
Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) said he hoped a special session will spur lawmakers to act.
“For too long our taxpayers have watched while the General Assembly has tried to deal with reducing property taxes,” Sen. Brewster said. “There are many plans now being drafted or considered and lawmakers need to come together on a plan that provided real relief or elimination. Taxpayers have waited too long.
“A special session is an excellent forum for all plans to be discussed, including the plan to totally eliminate property taxes.”
Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) said that there are several approaches to address tax reform, but lawmakers need to be thoughtful about how tax elimination impacts schools.
“If we’re going to get serious about providing property tax relief or elimination, we must do it thoughtfully. We certainly can’t hastily approve an elimination plan at the expense of our public schools,” Sen. Street said. “There are several approaches to addressing property taxes, so a special session would provide us with a clearer path toward true relief.”
Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), who has long been an advocate of property tax elimination, said school property tax is a complicated issue.
“One large source of revenue for school funding must be replaced with multiple other sources, and we must do this fairly and uniformly,” Sen. Schwank said. “Let’s use this special session to strike a balance between relieving the heavy burden property owners face, while also providing our schools with a reliable source of investment.”
Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said that property tax reform is a complex issue, but one that must be addressed.
“Property taxes remain an important issue to address. I still maintain that the appropriate solution will prove complex. We must dedicate time and effort to ensure the solution is successful,” Sen. Haywood said.“The property tax is no longer sustainable as the sole source of funding for public education. It is high time for us to come together in the spirit of bipartisanship to develop and enact new and lasting solutions to the ongoing burden of rising property taxes on Pennsylvania homeowners,” Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee said. “This is a process that must involve both school districts and direct input from taxpayers and homeowners.”