|By State Rep. Keith Gillespie
47th Legislative District
In addition to voting to fill local municipality, county row office and judicial vacancies both local and statewide, we are being asked in this Tuesday’s General Election to consider the following question:
“Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”
A similar question was on the ballot 20 years ago, when the Pennsylvania Constitution was amended to allow local taxing authorities - counties, school districts and municipalities - to reduce any homeowner’s property taxes by no more than 50 percent of the median assessed value of all primary residences (the Homestead Exclusion). On Tuesday, we have an opportunity to begin the process of possibly raising that figure to 100 percent.
A lot of misunderstanding surrounds what the potential outcome of the ballot referendum question would be. Some people with whom I’ve spoken think we are voting to immediately eliminate property taxes. We are not. What we are being asked to consider is whether or not to empower our local government entities with the ability to reduce or completely eliminate property taxes. This also would involve ALL property taxes, not just school property taxes.
If the referendum is approved, the next step would have to be taken in Harrisburg, with the General Assembly crafting appropriate legislation to empower local governments. Counties, school districts and municipalities would then have to decide whether or not to exercise their option to reduce or eliminate property taxes. It is important to note choosing elimination would mean having to put in place another funding stream in order to make up for the lost revenue.
If this referendum is defeated, the fight to eliminate property taxes does not die. I have introduced a four-bill package of legislation - House Bills 1315
- that addresses not only residential property taxes, but some of the cost drivers that impact them. With the issue front and center, my hope is that these bills would be voted out of committee and offer a solution to our problem. Please know I will continue to support any and all attempts to address this burden we as property owners bear.
You’ve no doubt heard property taxes are not a statewide problem. One thing the ballot referendum may do is define how much of a statewide issue they are. I know this question has generated a great deal of concerns. What I hope I have done is educate you by laying out the facts for your consideration and decision, in the hope that you will be better able to make an educated decision.
Representative Keith Gillespie
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little