The replacement of residential property taxes to fund our schools with increases in the state sales and personal income taxes is bad public policy on a number of fronts. Real estate taxes, for all of their faults, are levied against measurable wealth. Unlike income or consumption, it can't be hidden or fudged.
State Rep. Jim Cox's own projections show that, over time, less revenue would come into the state system to support public education from such a revamping of the tax structure than is now the case. This would create a crisis for any number of school districts, poor as well as wealthy. It also would force districts to rely more heavily on real estate taxes from commercial and business property owners. Talk about discouraging investment in the state!
What such a move also would do, unintentionally I'm sure, is to create another class of protected citizens: those who own their own homes. For those who don't, they are left to the whim of the marketplace. In the inner-city where I work, I've yet to hear anyone say that the cost of school district realty taxes is driving people from their homes. I would bet the same is true in more affluent parts of the county and state. The reality is that even with school district taxes to pay, the average homeowner's mortgage payment, plus the cost of water and sewage, is still well below what the market would charge in rent for the same property. That's why such a large percentage of senior citizens continue to own their own homes in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
Let's not shift more of the tax burden for supporting public education away from those with wealth and toward those who work or support our economy through their purchase of goods and services. We can find other ways to help seniors remain in their homes longer without taking it out of the hide of other Pennsylvanians.
First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM