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Make all of Pennsylvania an Opportunity Zone

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Dear Editor,

In general, I do not favor the various tax plans politicians use to incentivize one neighborhood over another. They always have some reason to pick winners and losers.  These plans offer one neighborhood (generally disadvantaged in some form) property tax relief over all other neighborhoods.  The tax burden is shifted away from the winner neighborhoods and carried on the backs of loser neighborhoods. Politicians make the case that neighborhoods, given the gift of reduced property taxes and other tax breaks, prosper because investors are attracted by the tax advantages; invest capital, develop, and create new jobs (direct and indirect).  The investors get rich, small business grow, workers have steady, rewarding employment and spend more money, further stimulating the economy.  For some reason, this is the only scenario in which most current politicians subscribe to the validity and power of trickle-down economics.  Good for the winner neighborhoods.  Not so good for everyone else.

My question has always been, if reduced taxes spur economic growth on a small scale, why is this not done on a larger, statewide scale? Why not make the whole Keystone State an opportunity zone?  The answer I most often receive regarding reduced school property tax is that the school districts would be devastated.  The incentive is ok on a small, neighborhood-by-neighborhood scale, but would not work on a large scale because school districts need the property tax revenue to survive. That is no longer true.

The Property Tax Independence Act offers a tax neutral solution that will both provide an economic stimulus through the elimination of school property tax state wide and will also provide for sufficient individual school district funding through a moderate increase of the current Pennsylvania sales tax, a logical expansion of the lists of items subject to this sales tax and a small increase in Pennsylvania state income tax. The Property Tax Independence Act will provide an equitable shift of funding of public school education from property owners to the population at large.

The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office conducted an analysis, released on September 25, 2012, of the Property Tax Independent Act and verified the financial viability of the Act’s ability to fund public school education in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office also reached the following conclusions regarding economic stimulus provided by the Property Tax Independence Act: 1.) The elimination of school property taxes increases the disposable income of property taxpayers and assumes that homeowners spend 90% of the increase in disposable income and business entities would also spend 90% of the increase. This would be an explosive economic stimulus for PA.   2.) Home values will increase, on average, by more than 10% statewide. 3.) The elimination of property taxes would increase the attractiveness of the Commonwealth for new business location and expansion.  This would create many new jobs.

In addition to the economic stimulus, the Property Tax Independence Act would: 1.) remove the threat many homeowners face of losing their home and a lifetime’s work to a sheriff’s sale because they can no longer afford to pay their school property taxes. 2.) allow senior citizens on fixed incomes to remain in their homes longer. 3.) allow young families to purchase homes because they do not need to pay the monthly school property tax escrow payment. 4.) allow farmers to maintain their farms intact, instead of selling them in whole or in part to fund the growing school property tax.

These are the reasons I support the Property Tax Independence Act and I urge you to support it also. Please contact your State Senator and Legislature and urge them to sponsor and then vote for the Property Tax Independence Act.

 

Hayden Phillips

Northampton County Council

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