I like apples and oranges, but thereís really no comparison, is there?
Other than the fact that they both grow on trees, what do you really have?
Apples are hard and crunchy and sweet, oranges are soft and mushy and tart, for the most part.
I thought about the analogy after last weekís interview with state representatives Kerry Benninghoff, Seth Grove and Mike Vereb.
Benninghoff and Grove came on Politically Direct to tout Groveís property tax relief bill, which seems to be in direct competition with state Rep. Jim Coxís bill, the Property Tax Independence Act.
I appreciate Verebís help in getting Benninghoff, the chair of the House finance committee, and Grove, to come down for the show. As Vereb pointed out, this is the farthest this conversation has ever gone. We need to keep it going.
Benninghoff was adamant that the numbers for House Bill 76, Coxís legislation, just donít add up, not enough apples for a full bushel. Benninghoff also said there were some drafting errors in the bill, which, unfortunately, I didnít ask him to clarify.
But the real problem they seem to have with HB 76 is that it wonít bring in enough money to cover the cost of public education in the state.
House Bill 76, if adopted, would increase the state sales tax to 7 percent and would also include more items, and would increase the state earned income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent.
Now, the real quandary is, how do you distribute those funds evenly.
Numbers are a tricky thing. Depending on who you talk to, they can mean different things. While Grove pointed out that and audit of HB 76 revealed that it could possibly lead to deficit, he really didnít finish the thought, because if something could Ďpossiblyí lead to a deficit it also could Ďpossiblyí not lead to a deficit.
Cox on the other hand has stated the legislation would bring in more than enough money to cover the cost of funding public education, and he used the same audit to prove his point.
Of course Grove is going to disagree with Coxís assessment; heís there to support his own legislation, House Bill 1189, which would leave the collection of property taxes up to the local districts.
And there you have your oranges.
House Bill 1189 leaves the power to raise taxes up to the individual school districts, while House Bill 76 takes the state wide issue of funding public education and brings it into the hands of the state, which by the way already funds public education.
That, my friends, is apples and oranges personified.
You see, the apples would be the people who believe public education should be a state level function and the oranges would be the people who believe it should stay at the local level.
I donít know much about mathematics, but I do know a few things.
I know Iíve lived in the Norristown Area School District for the past 15 years and my taxes have gone up every year, except for I believe, one, which conversely means, I know my taxes have never been lowered by my school district. Not once.
I know employees of my school districts have received raises, generous raises by comparison, even when we were going through the worst recession since the great depression, when a lot of people were being laid off, or taking pay cuts, or having their wages frozen.
And I also know the local school boards in our area are the ones who negotiate the contracts with the teachers unions, and not once do I recall any school board standing up to them and stating no new raises this go around, our home owners just canít take it anymore.
This isnít about the unions, or the teachers, or even the students. This is about fiscal responsibility, which is simply not a phrase Iíve ever once associated with public education in Pennsylvania.
This is a statewide problem that needs a statewide solution.
The entire mechanism for funding public education is broken and it canít be fixed.
It must be replaced.
The apple trees will grow all across the state, spreading the burden of funding public education across the commonwealth, while the orange trees seem to only want to grow in the same area theyíve always grown in.
Which do you prefer?
Iím more of an apple man, myself.
Stan Huskey is the editor of The Times Herald. He can be reached at 610-272-2500 ext. 215 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @StanHuskey on Twitter.