Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rohrer: Abolish school property taxes now

A guest column today by state Rep. Sam Rohrer, who is leading the fight to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania.

Abolish school property taxes now

The state's impending budget negotiations beg Gov. Ed Rendell and the legislature to remember the lessons learned from the credit crunch fallout: If you cannot afford it, do not expect someone else to pay for it.

Case in point: $6.2 billion dollars is a price that Pennsylvania taxpayers cannot afford to pay for the governor's leviathan 2008-2009 educational funding program. Even if state government agreed to give the governor a blank check to spend on education it would not fix the school funding crisis in Pennsylvania.

With the Boston Globe highlighting increased prices in every market over the past year (26 percent in milk prices, 40 percent in egg prices, and 300 percent in wheat prices), financially unstable school districts will no longer be able to force fiscally strapped homeowners to pay higher property taxes. This unconstitutional and oft-raised tax will lead to the inevitable foreclosure of countless more privately owned properties.

What we can afford and must address is comprehensive school finance reform. Again frivolously throwing more money at the school system will not provide the solution to a collapsing funding system.

In fact, school districts nationwide have been given access to unlimited funds with the goal of fixing problems-from underperformance to desegregation. Yet despite these "strategic investments," (a.k.a. increased taxes, increased spending and increased debt), these problems remain unresolved.

For example, a recent Cato Institute policy analysis revealed that Sausalito, California school district tax payers who "invested" $12,300 per pupil were rewarded with the lowest student test scores in the country.

Alarmingly all too similar, the Pennsylvania Legislature's Costing Out Report guesstimates that it will now cost $12,057 per pupil to bring statewide academic performance up to par with national standards.

Rather than relying on the mirage of expanded gaming revenue to avoid future astronomical property tax increases, Pennsylvania students and taxpayers deserve a fair and flexible solution leading to comprehensive educational funding reform.

Taxpayer-funded costing out study or not, the school property taxes remains one of the most unfair and completely immoral taxes since it is completely disconnected from the taxpayer's ability to pay.

However, by replacing our current "pay or you go" funding system with a "pay as you go" system, the School Property Tax Elimination Act (HB 1275) provides a broad-based, same-rate sales tax that allows Pennsylvania's economy to flourish as a 0 percent, School Property Tax FREE Zone, via a tax that is not only progressive but also allows us to remain economically competitive to our neighboring states.

While home values decrease, foreclosures continue to increase. As a result, many school districts are near financial distress because lowering property values are stressing revenue for already under-funded districts.

Again, under House Bill 1275, equality can be restored to each of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts by deriving funds from a voluntary, consumption-based tax based on the broadest public base-virtually anyone that purchases goods and services.
Districts will receive necessary funding, regardless of previous designation as "impoverished districts," through the state's Education Operating Fund to which all sales tax revenue is deposited. Additionally, local school boards will retain the decision-making power to allocate these funds without intervention from the state.

In an effort to make our public schools as efficient as possible, while providing a high-quality, properly-funded education, school districts will have the added advantage of implementing state-of-the-art, data-driven decision making (D3M) technology to accurately measure school spending and academic performance.

Other longstanding, unsolved challenges are fully addressed, such as long overdue equity adjustments that are realized through the designation of gaming revenues; legitimate discipline in spending that recognizes regular and necessary increases, indexing growth rates to sales tax collection; and the inclusion of local voter approval for future borrowing.

Finally and most importantly, true property ownership will be fully restored by House Bill 1275 through the total elimination of the school property tax for every homeowner.

In short, by relying on the flexible and fair, same-rate sales tax, we can restore the Constitutional right to own private property for every Pennsylvanian, while improving the economy of the state and of the individual through the comprehensive reform provided by the School Property Tax Elimination Act.

Join me and 27 taxpayer groups in support of this historic piece of legislation by participating in the Save Our Homes Rally on June 2 from 11:00 a.m. to noon in the Capitol Rotunda. For further information, please visit http://ptcc.us

State Rep. Sam Rohrer is a Republican who represents the 128th House District in Berks County.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tony Phyrillas: Support Save Our Homes Rally on June 2

Bus transportation is being arranged by the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition to take residents to the Save Our Homes Rally at the State Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg on Monday, June 2. The rally starts at 11 AM. This could be the last chance this year to get the Legislature to act on property tax reform.

From Pottstown Area:

Bus will be leaving from the Wal-Mart in the Pottstown Center on Shoemaker Road at 8:30 AM. Contact Gene Endress of the PCTA's Owen J. Roberts taxpayer group at gendre1@comcast.net

From Reading Area:

Bus will be leaving from the K-Mart at Rt. 222 and Rt. 724, Shillington, at 8:30 AM. Contact David Baldinger of the PTCC at taxrally@mail.com

From Lancaster County Area:

Bus for the Eastern Lancaster County/Western Chester County area will be leaving from the Christiana Fire House at 8:30 AM with a pickup stop in Lancaster city. Contact John McCartney of the PCTA's CLASTA group at johnjhere30@comcast.net

From York County Area:

Bus will leave from the Southeastern York County area (Delta, Fawn Grove, Peach Bottom) with a pickup stop near York City. Contact Margie Lavin of the PCTA's SETRC group at info@setrc.net or Warren Bulette of the PCTA's YCTC group at
bulette@juno.com


Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Copyright © 2005-2008, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tony Phyrillas: When judges get mixed up in politics

Tim Potts, who operates the reform site DemocracyRisingPA, weighs in on the League of Women Voters lawsuit against the Ralph Cappy, the former chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the threats made by the current chief justice, Ron Castille, against the League and its attorney.

Potts writes:

"Most people recognize the furtive plotting of the pay raise as an unparalleled act of political cowardice. Less conspicuous is the courage some lawmakers displayed in assisting the League. If the case goes forward, those lawmakers will exhibit a degree of courage that has been absent from PA politics for decades.

Sadly, the chief justices don't understand that they are servants, not masters, and that citizens have a right to know what their government is doing before the fact, not just after. The League's lawsuit must come as a shocking reminder to these arrogant jurists that the government belongs to the citizens, not to them, and we citizens are not going away until we get it back."

Read the full post, "Cappy & Castille Confuse Courage & Cowardice," at the DemocracyRisingPA Web site.

For more views and background on the growing controversy, read
"When Judges Are Accused of Breaking The Law," at TONY PHYRILLAS as well as "Cappy & Castille Confuse Courage & Cowardice" at POLICY BLOG and "Lawsuit alleges backroom dealings by Pa.'s former top judge" in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Also, Russ Diamond has something to say about "Disorder in the Court" at PACleanSweep.com

Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Copyright © 2005-2008, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tony Phyrillas: Join Property Tax Elimination Rally!

This is just a short note today to remind you about the school property tax elimination rally that will be held in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg on Monday, June 2, from 11:00 AM – Noon. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to take our demands to the unwilling politicians in their own house and to meet and show our support for those lawmakers who understand this vital issue and are who are working for us.

This is shaping up to be a terrific event with a number of great speakers and a lot of taxpayer participation. To make the greatest impression on reluctant lawmakers we need as many folks as possible to attend to voice their support for HB 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act.

Please do all that you can to join in this event and please help to spread the word to others who will be willing to attend. The time for action is NOW!

For those of you who might need transportation to the rally there are a number of bus trips planned in east and central Pennsylvania that still have seats available. This is a convenient way to get to the capitol and to establish camaraderie with others who are working for true education finance reform. A list of available buses and contact names are listed below my signature; all are $20 or less depending on location and will be reserved on a first-come basis.

I hope to meet all of you on June 2!

David Baldinger
PTCC Administrator

Pottstown Area:

Bus will be leaving from the Wal-Mart in the Pottstown Center on Shoemaker Road at 8:30 AM. Contact Gene Endress of the PCTA's Owen J. Roberts taxpayer group at gendre1@comcast.net

Reading Area:

Bus will be leaving from the K-Mart at Rt. 222 and Rt. 724, Shillington, at 8:30 AM. Contact David Baldinger of the PTCC at taxrally@mail.com

Lancaster County Area:

Bus for the Eastern Lancaster County/Western Chester County area will be leaving from the Christiana Fire House at 8:30 AM with a pickup stop in Lancaster city. Contact John McCartney of the PCTA's CLASTA group at johnjhere30@comcast.net

York County Area:

Bus will leave from the Southeastern York County area (Delta, Fawn Grove, Peach Bottom) with a pickup stop near York City. Contact Margie Lavin of the PCTA's SETRC group at info@setrc.net or Warren Bulette of the PCTA's YCTC group at bulette@juno.com

Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Copyright © 2005-2008, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tony Phyrillas: Tax group opposes pension hike for state retirees

STOP PRIMARY RESIDENCE PROTECTION PLAN or STOP, a citizens group working to eliminate all property taxes in Pennsylvania, opposes a proposal to increase pensions for retired state workers and legislators.

The group believes a pension increase would wipe out any potential savings from the elimination or reduction in property taxes, according to founder Bob Logue.

From a release issued by STOP:

The Pennsylvania House leadership is proposing increases in state employee pensions including retired legislators, teachers and other state workers. The issue of this letter is not whether the pension increases are merited, but instead where the money will come from to pay for the increases.

At least as far as the teachers and other school retirees are concerned, the increases will come from the school districts that employed them. As our school districts are required to replenish the pension fund to pay the proposed higher pensions, increases in property taxes — the major source of funding for school districts — will likely be forthcoming for homeowners and other property owners.

Any savings realized by property owners from the slot parlors could easily be wiped away by millage increases to help fund these pension increases. This is the perfect example of why I have repeatedly stated property tax reductions are only temporary, and are not true property tax reform.

When you see a few hundred dollars in property tax reductions on your school tax bill this year, enjoy it, but don't get used to it…because those reductions will not last. Reassessments that may soon be ordered by the PA Supreme Court as they rule on the constitutionality of the base year assessment system most counties use; or millage increases by your local school board to offset pension increases or other budgetary increases, will soon wipe away your property tax reductions.

The only real property tax reform is abolishment of all property taxes — school, county and municipal on primary residences. Replacement sales and income taxes and the economic boom such a plan would unleash will strengthen the economies of our counties, school districts and municipalities. Then homeowners would truly own their homes for the first time ever.

Contact your PA State Senator and encourage her or him to push for passage of HB 1947 (which passed the House 197-0) or SB 717. Both pieces of legislation are currently in the Senate Finance Committee. Both would amend the PA constitution to permit abolishment of all property taxes on primary residences. It is important the Senate act on either of these bills this year.

Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Copyright © 2005-2008, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tony Phyrillas: Rally for tax relief on June 2

"The time is now to vigorously show the Harrisburg politicians how we feel about school property tax elimination," says David Baldinger, administrator of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition.

A rally is planned for Monday, June 2, in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to support House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act, the legislation that is endorsed by the PTCC and the 26-member groups of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations.

Taxpayers who are fed up with rising property taxes are invited to take part in the rally from 11 a.m. to noon.

The timing of this rally is designed to coincide with the budget debate that will be in progress, ensuring that all members of the General Assembly will be in Harrisburg to receive the message, Baldinger says.

While the agenda has not yet been finalized, Baldinger expects that a large number of current lawmakers and candidates will be in attendance along with community, business, school leaders and taxpayer advocates.

Following the rally, the PTCC and
FreedomWorks will be issuing an "Honor Roll" listing all lawmakers, candidates and community leaders who show their support for school property tax elimination by attending the rally.

"The purpose of the rally is to do our best to send a very strong message to the legislature that we are tired of their procrastination and expect action to eliminate school property taxes NOW," Baldinger says. "This is a major event and a large turnout of supporters will help to focus media attention on this issue and increase public awareness and support."

The PTCC is looking for volunteers to spread the word about the rally, organize folks in their area and arrange transportation to Harrisburg.

"This is a one-time event that is very important, so if you're willing to help please try to find as many folks as possible to attend - use carpools, limo buses, full-sized buses, any way possible to get people to the rally" Baldinger says.

The PTCC is organizing charter buses to the Capitol. If you're interested in joining this trip for the rally, send an e-mail to taxrally@mail.com with your name, address and telephone number. If enough people respond to fill a charter bus, Baldinger says he will send interested persons a return e-mail with the details of the trip and method of payment.

Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. He received a first place award for Best Opinion Column in 2007 by Suburban Newspapers of America. He was also honored for column writing in 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Copyright © 2005-2008, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.