The Need for Property Tax Reform

Keep Doctors in PA

Pa's Health Care Cost Containment Council


Environmental Issues


Crime


Preserving Open Space


Protecting Lottery Revenues

 

The Need for Property Tax Reform

One of the most pressing issues facing our Commonwealth is the need to reduce school property taxes. I have consistently worked to rebalance the tax funding for our school districts, to provide more money from the earned income tax and less from property taxes. That would help all homeowners by reducing their property tax, but some of those same homeowners (wage earners) would pay more via an increased earned income tax. The real winners would be our senior citizens and others on fixed or restricted incomes, who can least afford these taxes.

Some people clamor for a total elimination of that property tax, but under our Constitution that would also eliminate property taxes for businesses and industrial properties (think commercial malls and steel factories, as examples). Our current Constitution requires "uniformity"; it will only change if the Constitution is changed, a time-consuming process and one which could pit younger wage earners against our seniors on fixed incomes.

Act 50, Act 1 and Act 72 all tried to refashion this balance, and each was met with resistance from various interest groups (PSEA, PA School Boards Assoc, etc.) and each ultimately was seen as a failure. But that doesn't mean we can't revisit them, change the mix and modify some of the provisions and try again.

There are proposals such as the reworked Commonwealth Caucus Plan, the STOP plan and others, all of which deserve serious consideration. But keep in mind that once your tax money goes to Harrisburg, political forces come into play and try to steer monies to their chosen causes. I've supported the idea of using sales tax revenues to supplement the mix of funding for our schools, but I'm always concerned that Harrisburg could steer those funds politically, rather than returning them to the jurisdictions where they were generated.

 

Keep Doctors in PA

We need to extend the MCare Abatement program, which helps PA doctors with their medical malpractices insurance premiums, easing that financial burden and helping them stay in Pennsylvania to treat our citizens. Passed in 2002, the program has successfully eased the strain on doctors' finances, and the overall situation has stabilized. Everyone agrees that this very workable program should be extended, but the Governor is holding it hostage trying to force a vote on his new version of universal healthcare.

The Governor's preferred plan would favor just a few health insurers (e.g. Adult basic uses only 5 insurers for the whole Commonwealth,). Compare that with the med-mal situation, where we've increased from 5 major insurers to more than 80, injecting competition into the system and witnessing a substantial reduction in insurance premiums. This Governor is very persuasive, and he's been very successful at squeezing these few insurance companies into concessions, but who knows whether succeeding governors would be able to do the same. Better to have a healthy, competitive marketplace with many insurers seeking to do business here in Pennsylvania.

MCare Abatement has worked. The Governor should de-couple it from his universal coverage plan, and let both stand in full on their own merits. You can be sure that MCare will be extended promptly, as it should be.

 

Pa's Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4)

Here again, we have a well-performing entity which everyone agrees needs to be extended, but again the Governor is holding it hostage in order to get his universal health care coverage.

Lets debate healthcare coverage on its own merits, and do the same for PHC4. If we do PHC4 gets extended, hands down!

 

Environmental Issues

Alternative Energy sources need to be found, and Pennsylvania has been a leader in supporting the development of such fuels. As always, we have to assure the taxpayer money is spent wisely.

Alternative energy needs to be part of the national mix, if the U.S. is to meet our energy needs for years to come.

The natural gas find known as the Marcellus Shale geologic formation is a tremendous find, and offers an alternative fuel source for our cars of the future. Compressed natural gas is a proven technology, the same one that T. Boone Pickens has been hawking in TV commercials. With more than 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, it could provide a major portion of our fuel needs for generations.

 

Crime

We're blessed in Chester County with law abiding citizens and peaceful communities, but we also have pockets of crime with which we've been dealing. I'm proud to be the author of Pennsylvania's Weed and Seed Statute, known as the 'Targeted Communities Revitalization Act' (Act 146).

The Weed and Seed program first seeks to arrest and remove criminals from our streets, and then to seed - to promote programs and initiatives which rebuild the community.

Working with our Congressman Jim Gerlach, with Senator John Rafferty, with District Attorney Joe Carroll and with local police we've accomplished a lot, but more needs to be done.

 

Preserving Open Space

We've been very successful in Chester County, and in the Southeastern region of the Commonwealth with initiatives to save our open space and agricultural lands. At the state level we've been active in passing legislation which encourages preservation by buying agricultural easements and authorizing the purchase of future development rights, to provide farmers the cash to continue farming. Our Chester County Commissioners have been leaders in this Commonwealth with their commitment to open space and to the preservation of farms.

Without such efforts, farmers will be financially pressured to sell their farms, most likely to developers of housing, leading to additional children in our schools and additional cars on our roads. Open Space programs provide some relief from those pressure, and I'm glad to support them.

 

Protecting Lottery Revenues

In 2007 and again in 2008, this Administration used lottery revenues intended to fund programs for seniors, and used those monies ($8.2 million in 2007 and $8.7 million in 2008) to pay for the bureaucracy of the Department of Aging. That was never intended.

The Lottery Law from 1973 specifically prohibits the use of lottery funds for Department of Revenue expenses, but the Administration ignored the plain intent of the statue and claimed they could be used for the Department of Aging's expenses.

That cheats our seniors! There's no indication that the administration intends to pay this $17 million back to the Lottery. My bill (HB 1240) would make it expressly illegal to raid the lottery to pay for bureaucratic expenses. Thus far - and not surprisingly by - the Democrats have failed to move my bill in committee, or to schedule it for a floor vote.