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Pennsylvania property tax reform bill gaining steam, lawmaker says

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 14 2013 04:13:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 15 2013 05:06:36 AM CDT

Property tax reform has been talked about for years, and this year is no exception, but is the state any closer to closing the deal?

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

Property tax reform has been talked about for years, and this year is no exception, but is the state any closer to closing the deal?

It's a question Lori Paules, of Allentown, would like answered. It's been two decades since she and her husband made a mortgage payment, but her property tax bill is another story.

"He has Parkinson's and we have to deal with medical issues, so yes, property taxes can be a burden," she said.

So could lawmakers in Harrisburg finally be offering relief to Paules and other homeowners?

"Some may not support it totally, but I think they want a discussion," said Pa. Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe Co.

It's a revised version of the Property Tax Independence Act.

"This one has more personal income tax in it," Scavello said.

The bill would eliminate school district property tax by raising sales tax from six percent to seven percent and increase state personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent.

"This has so many variables in it, and those variables usually scare people away," said Alan Jennings, a community activist.

Scavello said the bill is gaining steam, with 80 legislators already on board.

"I think leaders are looking for 102 co-sponsors, 102 is the number," he said.

The latest version does not include tax on food stamp items or clothing valued under $50. Fresh meats, produce and dairy would also not be taxed.

Proponents said the plan would still be able to fund the public school system, but Jennings said those who can least afford it will be hurt the most.

"Lower income people spend everything they got, which means spending more money on sales taxes than others as a percentage of their income," Jennings said.

If passed, the plan would be introduced in phases, with property taxes not eliminated fully until school districts are out of debt.