Harrisburg, PA – April 15, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — While the governor on Monday touted the approximately $200 in average property tax relief that Pennsylvania homeowners will receive as a result of legalized gambling, Rep. Samuel E. Rohrer (R-Berks) said the announcement fails to address the underlying right of Pennsylvanians to own their homes.
“At the end of the day, not one single Pennsylvanian is any closer to truly owning their home as a result of legalized gambling,” Rohrer said. “The only way Pennsylvanians can truly own their homes is if the state completely eliminates the school property tax. Until that happens, homeowners are merely renting their homes in exchange for school property tax payments. After all, if a homeowner fails to pay, the government will evict them.”
Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday announced the state Property Tax Relief Fund had accumulated enough money from gambling to provide approximately $770 million in property tax relief in 2009. Rohrer said that is simply proof that people continue to lose money at Pennsylvania casinos.
“In order for homeowners to win, the Pennsylvanians who put their money in slot machines must lose,” Rohrer said. “The entire system is built around creating more dependence. It seems that the governor desires that homeowners, from senior citizens to working families, become dependent on this state tax ‘relief’ program in order to be able to pay their school property tax bill rather than fixing the problem so they can keep their home. Schools are increasingly dependent on people losing their hard-earned money as the way to fund our public schools. Compulsive gamblers are then encouraged to look to government services to help them quit the addiction government encouraged them to start. The whole thing is set up so that people look toward government for the answers to their problems when, in fact, the existing school property tax system is the real problem.”
Act 1, signed into law by the governor in June 2006, allocates funds from gaming revenue into the Property Tax Relief Fund. Each year, the governor’s Office of the Budget must certify the fund’s balance on April 15. If the fund contains at least $570 million, the state can distribute the funds for property tax relief. Last year, the fund provided an average of $169 per household in relief.
“For many homeowners, the $200 in so-called ‘relief’ they will receive is less than the amount their property tax bills were raised since 2006,” Rohrer said. “Pennsylvania homeowners deserve more than the false hope the governor’s gambling scheme has to offer.”
That is why Rohrer is continuing to pursue his comprehensive school finance reform plan known as the School Property Tax Elimination Act (SPTEA), a thoroughly vetted plan based on the Department of Revenue’s numbers calling for the total elimination of school property taxes on owner-occupied primary residences. Under Rohrer’s plan, schools would be funded primarily from an expanded sales and use tax at the current 6 percent rate. The money would be set aside for distribution through an Educational Operating Fund. Food, clothing, utilities, and other essential services would remain exempt from the sales tax.
“The School Property Tax Elimination Act is the only current solution that addresses the problems of property taxes in a real way,” Rohrer said. “It’s a predictable, equitable, and stable system of funding our schools while protecting taxpayers from the out-of-hand increases in school property taxes. We can no longer spend time on proposals like Act 1 that can never provide true relief. Taxpayers deserve a real solution.”
Rohrer is planning to reintroduce his school property tax elimination bill at a press conference on May 4.
Rep. Samuel Rohrer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Dan Massing
House Republican Public Relations