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The “Blame Game” over property taxes continues.

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Ron Boltz of PA Liberty Alliance

LVC Note:  Ron Boltz is the VP of Pennsylvania Liberty Alliance and was a Pine Grove School Board member.

On Monday May 16th I went to Harrisburg to join a group called Indiana County against Unfair Assessments as they traveled over three hours to voice their concerns about property taxes.  Their recent court-ordered countywide reassessment has caused them many hardships and problems, and they are looking for solutions.  Unfortunately for all of us, the property tax system cannot be “fixed”.  Many legislators say that frequent countywide reassessments are the answer.  I’m sure these folks disagree.

 

Neither I nor PLA had anything to do with arranging this event.  They did invite people from all areas to join them, but I went simply to observe.  The day seemed to be planned out for them by their representative, Dave Reed (R)-House Majority Leader.  On the schedule was a tour of the Capitol and time spent in the gallery watching a House session.  Actual face to face time for discussion of the issues was limited to 45 minutes.  This is the typical way politicians operate-grant access while doing things like this to make constituents feel important, while also deflecting from the real reason these folks traveled so far on their rented bus.  I’m sure they appreciated the tour, as our Capitol building is quite impressive, but tours and gallery views of the House of Representatives aren’t solving their property tax issues.  I don’t think these folks fell for it.  Good for them.

 

When the question and answer session finally came, I sat in the back determined to keep my mouth shut.  After all, I was just a guest.  Introduction speeches by politicians cut the already short 45 minute session down even more, so when we finally got to the real meaning of this trip, there was only about 30 minutes remaining.  I had to bite my tongue as one gentlemen questioned why there is so much opposition to SB 76.  The same misinformation and talking points flowed out of the politicians’ mouths.  Of course one of the excuses was “loss of local control”.  This time the “reason” was that many legislators are concerned that if homeowners no longer fund education, then curriculum will be set in Harrisburg by “those in the ivory tower”.

 

Here is a reality check to Harrisburg politicians…IT’S ALREADY SET IN HARRISBURG.  Local control is largely a myth.  The school boards didn’t vote for Common Core, which by the way they conveniently renamed “Pennsylvania Core” to try to fool you.  In fact, the legislature didn’t even vote for Common Core.  Unelected bureaucrats in the Dept. of Ed did.  While I was on the school board in Pine Grove, we looked into what would happen if we just ignored the Common Core standards.  We couldn’t get enough board members to go along because the State and Feds threaten to withhold their portion of the funding.  For our district, that means enormous property tax increases to make up that revenue, and Act 1 would prohibit us from being able to do it even if we wanted to.  They say this isn’t a mandate, but it really is.  It’s a false choice.  Does this sound like “local control” to you??  Apparently our politicians have no clue.  Not a big surprise.

 

While I sat quiet through all of this ridiculous nonsense, I got to a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.  The conversation turned to the pension problem, as it always does.  As usual, they say that the pension is their biggest priority and should be fixed before we talk about property taxes.  If this is such a priority…to reform their own pension…it sure is peculiar how they keep letting it go unaddressed while our state economy, schools, and taxpayers suffer.  They ignore the fact that “fixing” the pension will not “fix” the property tax problem.  Facts, however, don’t matter to them.  The goal is to deflect and make excuses, so the pension issue is just the latest excuse to not address property taxes.  What was their excuse before the pension crisis came around?  They had plenty of them.

 

Then came the big lie, or more accurately, another lie.  One of them made a comment alluding to school boards being to blame for the high pension costs.  They suggested that people go to their school board meetings to complain.  This is where I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I had to call them out on this obvious attempt to avoid blame.

 

From the back of the room, I butted in an explained how the legislators GAVE THEMSELVES A 50% RETROACTIVE PENSION INCREASE and gave the rest of the state workers (including teachers) a 25% retroactive increase, and then UNDERFUNDED THE PENSION!  Local school boards are mandated to pay these pension costs, and have absolutely nothing to do with it’s administration.  They make NO DECISIONS, and CANNOT reform it locally, but yet these politicians are trying to deflect anger from themselves to people who had nothing to do with the huge pension debacle that Harrisburg caused.   Eventually Rep. Reed admitted that it must be fixed at the state level.

 

Politicians will do anything to point the blame to someone or something other than themselves.  They will blame the school boards, other politicians, leadership, lobbyists, and even the voter themselves.  We can blame school boards for that which they can control, but they didn’t cause the pension crisis and they can’t fix it.  We can blame other politicians, and leadership, but that’s no excuse for SB 76 supporters to continue to take their marching orders from Mike Turzai and the opposing lobbyists.  We demand the people’s voice on this issue be heard, and we demand that the lobbyists take a back seat for a change.  Unfortunately, lobbyists get the front seats while we get ignored.  This is opposite of the way our form of government is supposed to work.

 

We the People need to stop waiting around for the politicians to listen to us.  We need to MAKE them listen to us.  They won’t do it willingly.  They need to be confronted when they attempt to deflect and misinform.  If this means speaking out of turn when you’re not supposed to, then that’s what you have to do.  We are well within our rights to object to their deceptive ways, and we can do it while maintaining our integrity, without name calling, and while speaking truth to power.  We don’t have to lie, cheat, and steal.  We’ll leave those tactics to them.  They’re good at it.

 

This morning I read a story about county commissioners in DeKalb County, Georgia, who implemented a “rule” that their names couldn’t be spoken at their public meetings.  The goal is presumably to keep their names out of the public record in an effort to avoid accountability.  Can you imagine??  Elected “officials” in this country actually having the gall to trash our 1st Amendment rights (along with a few others) by demanding we can’t say their names!  It’s time these emboldened politicians be put in their place, and it’s time we once again make our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

 

The Founding Fathers never intended for us to only voice our opinions at the ballot box.  We can no longer just vote on election day, then home until the next election day, and expect politicians to solve our problems for us.  We need to confront them, and watch over them at all times.  Thomas Jefferson said “The People are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty” He also said “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.  I like a little rebellion now and then”.  I can assure you that the “rebellion” he speaks of is much more harsh than simply objecting to misinformation being given at a meeting in Harrisburg.  Politicians have very thin skin and they act as though we’re out of order when we do such things.  We need to begin acting more like our Founding Fathers.  It’s up to us to do this.  It’s our right.  It’s our duty.

 

Ron Boltz

PA Liberty Alliance

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