Property Tax Reform in Pennsylvania is Needed Now, Not Later

While Politicians Debate and Delay the Issue, Thousands of Pennsylvanians Are Losing Their Homes

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Property tax reform is not a new topic in Pennsylvania. For well more than a decade, the state's debated the best avenue to tax reform, but to date no substantial changes have been made to truly ease the burden on homeowners. A homeowner could lose his largest investment in life simply because he can no longer shoulder the burden of property taxes.

Michael Wood, the research director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, testified before the Senate Finance Committee in July 2012 and said, "Proponents argue that 10,000 Pennsylvanians lose their homes each year [due to delinquent tax payments], which equated to less than 0.2 percent of the total homes in the state."

He says he feels dismantling the school funding system "for a problem that doesn't affect 99.8 percent of homeowners would effectively be 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater.'" He was opposed to the recent measure that would eliminate property taxes and raise the sales and income levels to compensate (introduced as Act 1776 in the state House by Republican Rep. Jim Cox of western Berks County and as Bill 1400 in the Senate).

Wood's statement of the "low percentage of homes lost" does not take into consideration the human factor: those families who chose paying their taxes over food, medicine or other life essentials. It does not help the thousands of people who are affected by this issue, including senior citizens who are on fixed income, such as Fran in Boothwyn, Delaware County. At 77, she lost her husband and cannot afford to pay the $7,600 property taxes with her income alone. She not only has to cope with the loss of her husband, but the loss of her house as well.

In Schuylkill County, loss of homes due to unpaid taxes is especially high. State Sen. David Argall, R-29, attributes this to the county having one of the largest senior citizen populations in the commonwealth.

The time has come for Pennsylvania to step up and help its citizens on this issue. A decade-plus debate is long enough.

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