For decades, the movement to eliminate Property Taxes as a funding source for public school education has been growing through the extraordinary efforts of ordinary Pennsylvanians. Now House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76 have finally reached the tipping point where they have a chance to pass if brought to a vote.
These bills provide for the elimination of the local school property tax and substitute it with an increased income tax and sales tax. In many suburban and rural areas, real estate taxes have increased dramatically, far outpacing inflation, and people's ability to pay. The consequences are severe: farmers selling large swaths of land for development; businesses relocating (many out of Pennsylvania entirely); seniors on fixed incomes forced to sell their lifelong homes; new homeowners giving up on the American dream of purchasing a home; and more recently, many middle income homeowners have actually been pushed into foreclosure.
HB/SB76 would broaden the tax base to include not only all wage earners in Pa. but also those who visit the state to conduct business or for tourism. It would relieve the largest portion of the tax burden of homeowners by reducing their monthly mortgage escrow payments and allow them to keep and spend more of their income. By making housing more affordable for everyone, new buyers would enter the market creating demand for housing and increase property values of homes across the state.
As a Real Estate developer and small business owner for over 20 years, I understand the negative impact property taxes have on personal wealth, home ownership, and job creation. Over the years I've met many times with David Baldinger, President of the PA Taxpayers Cyber Coalition and one of the true leaders of HB/SB 76. I understand the mechanics of this bill and the economic benefit waiting to be un-leashed. It's an initiative I have advocated for since 2006. And although not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is important to note that we currently have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican Governor who all claim to 'support' the elimination of property taxes.
Why then, has it not happened? The answer is Leadership - Party Leadership.
Special interest groups are strongly opposing these bills; therefore they remain stalled by a select group of 'Leaders' in Harrisburg who have been the beneficiaries of those same special interest groups. That's not leadership - that's just politics.
If a legislator truly wanted HB/SB76 to pass, he or she wouldn't just say they 'support' the bill and vote it into an endless cycle of committee analysis and studies, but rather they would actively advocate for it. You would relentlessly engage those who have not 'signed on' in both political parties to demonstrate to them why it is not only in the best interests of their constituents, but also in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Most importantly, you would not vote into 'Party Leadership' the very gatekeepers trying to kill the very bill you claim to 'support' so much.
My opponent David Maloney in the 130th District, while in office nearly three and a half years, has played a passive role in this extremely important struggle taking place statewide. In fact, he has 'sponsored' other bills that serve as half-measures that only distract and undermine the focus on HB/SB 76. He has not demonstrated active engagement in convincing Governor Corbett, legislators from the far corners of the state, or those in the Democratic Party that school property tax elimination is the key to restoring the economic future of Pennsylvania. Locally, David Maloney has never even paid a single visit to the Daniel Boone School board where I serve, to provide any update on this significant issue burdening our community. Instead he voted to put the same party leaders back in power to keep this bill sidelined indefinitely.
True leadership is championing a cause. It's standing up to those who are only interested in the status quo because its serves their political self interests. It's fighting for those people who elected you to be their advocate. It's sticking up for your friends, your neighbors, and your community and doing everything possible to improve their lives. It's putting their interests above your own political ambitions.
In Harrisburg I will not be satisfied merely being a cheerleader in the background on this issue. I'm not afraid to reach across the aisle and I'm certainly not afraid to push the leadership of my own party to get the job done. When I serve in Harrisburg, you will know exactly what I'm doing to move HB/SB 76 over the goal line.
If you want to eliminate the School Property Tax, then eliminate the party leadership. Replace the legislature with real fighters who have the political courage to serve those who elected them, not merely the political ambition to serve themselves and those they're politically beholden to.
Andrew Basile is a Republican candidate for the Pa. General Assembly, State House 130th District.