Harrisburg – State Senator Ryan Aument voted in favor of an amendment that would eliminate school property taxes statewide for all property by shifting to higher personal income and sales and use taxes.
The amendment, offered by Senator David Argall, was defeated by a vote of 25 to 24.
“My hope is that this vote shows the people of the 36th Senatorial District that I am serious about finally addressing what we all know must be fixed – the way that we fund our public schools.”
Under the amendment defeated in the Senate, the sales and use tax would increase from 6% to 7% and new items currently not taxed would now be subject to the sales and use tax.
Additionally, the state’s personal income tax would from rise from 3.07% to 4.95%.
All of the new revenue, combined with gaming revenue, would be used to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania.
“The school property tax elimination movement is a direct result of Harrisburg’s many failed efforts to deal with this local tax problem,” said Sen. Aument. “People no longer believe that we can partially shift taxes and control school property taxes – they believe the only way to address the problem is through full elimination.”
Sen. Aument noted that the new revenue raised under the increased state taxes will be deposited each year into the Education Stabilization Fund, which will distributed to school districts to match the revenue lost by eliminating the property tax. Each year, school districts would be eligible to receive a cost of living adjustment based on the Statewide Average Weekly Wage.
School districts could levy an additional personal income tax or earned income tax to raise additional revenue, but only through voter referendum.
“No one should think that this bill is the entire answer to our school funding issues in Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Aument. “While today’s vote was on school property taxes, helping school districts cut costs and distributing school funding fairly cannot be ignored, either.”
Sen. Aument said that one of the top concerns he has heard from school districts in his district are the mandated costs imposed by state government.
“The school districts are right – we need to get at those issues driving costs – such as public sector pensions, prevailing wage requirements and other state educational mandates. We have to finally fix those things which are costing taxpayers more than they can afford.”
Sen. Aument also said that another important component to the public school funding fix is the use of the new education funding formula written by the Basic Education Funding Commission. The formula changes endorsed by the commission enjoyed broad bi-partisan support and would directly benefit growing Lancaster County Schools.
“One of other pillars of the school funding problem has been the unfairness of the state basic education funding formula which Harrisburg refused to fix for years,” said Sen. Aument. “Now that we have come to agreement on the new formula, we need to implement it so that the inequities in the funding system finally end.”
Senator Aument also noted that the people who contacted his office were overwhelmingly in support of the property tax elimination measure, although many businesses expressed concern about the higher taxes.
“When I came to the Senate last December I promised to carry the voice of the people of Lancaster County to Harrisburg, and while they all didn’t agree on this vote, the vast majority did,” said Senator Aument.
“However let there be no mistake, the new tax rates in this legislation are sobering. The benefit is the full elimination of the most hated and regressive tax imposed on homes and businesses.”