Plans for historic property tax relief progress in House while crass pension politics continues in the Senate

Legislative Review


Plans for historic property tax relief progress in House…

On Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.B. 504) calling for historic, statewide property tax relief in Pennsylvania. For too long, homeowners have been forced to bear a disproportionate and unfair share of the burden for funding our schools. They need relief now. This week's vote shows the House of Representatives is serious about providing that relief. 

It also shows that in Pennsylvania, Democrats and Republicans can still work together to find solutions to difficult problems. While House Democrats favor a different property tax relief plan -- one that also addresses Pennsylvania's budget deficit, invests in education and provides relief for low-income renters – we also believe continuing to move the issue of property tax relief forward as part of budget negotiations is crucial. The property tax relief vote in the House this week was the beginning of the conversation, not the end. 

Governor Wolf has shown great leadership on this issue. He's made historic property tax relief a priority in his budget and has taken a very active and personal role in helping to move the discussions forward. House Democrats will continue to work with him and our Republican colleagues to create a property tax relief plan that's fair for all our homeowners and good for all our school districts.  

…while crass pension politics continues in the Senate

News from the other side of the state Capitol this week wasn't so good. Senate Republicans pushed a 410-page pension bill through that chamber in less than five days – from introduction to final passage. 

Republicans claim it will save money, but taxpayers have no way of knowing since an independent actuary didn't have time to fully evaluate the legislation. A similar plan introduced under Gov. Corbett several years ago was abandoned after actuaries determined it would have cost taxpayers an additional $40 billion.

The constant attempt by Republicans to steamroll various pension "reform" plans through the General Assembly suggests they are determined to eliminate public pensions – whether or not it makes sense for the tens of thousands of current workers who will depend on them for retirement security or the taxpayers who will pay for the eventual cost of crass politics and careless policy.

A law that Republicans and Democrats passed together in 2010 has already reduced the cost of pension benefits in Pennsylvania by 40 percent, and is also working to reduce the unfunded pension liability. Gov. Wolf's budget includes a proposal to reduce that debt even faster while preserving retirement security for public workers like firefighters, police and teachers. The bill Republicans rammed through the Senate this week doesn't address the pension debt and could destroy retirement security for these public servants. Worse, they seem determined to do it without anyone being the wiser.