Op-Ed: Voters Chose to Amend their Constitution – How Did We Get Here?

This past Election Day, voters across the Commonwealth voiced their agony and disdain over the current property tax system.

Tuesday’s results are no surprise given Pennsylvania is considered the “Wild West” of property taxation. In fact, one study puts us in the top 10 with the worst property tax system in the country. The concept of eliminating property taxes attracts the support of Republicans and Democrats alike because our current system is not based on one’s ability to pay.

I was optimistic when I first came to the state Senate three years ago that we could forge a bipartisan agreement to do something about this universally hated tax.

Governor Wolf’s first budget proposal included $12.7 billion in new taxes on Pennsylvanians that was originally sold as “school property tax relief.” However, when the plan was publicly released, it showed a bulk of the new taxes went to grow state government with very little providing long-overdue property tax relief. It was a classic bait-and-switch. Fortunately for taxpayers, not one member of the House – Republican or Democrat – supported the governor’s plan when brought up for a vote.

In November of 2015, the state Senate came within one vote of approving a measure to provide school property tax elimination. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, who presides over the Senate, cast the tiebreaking vote against the proposal killing any effort to provide relief to Pennsylvania homeowners.

Since the crushing defeat in 2015, the process to amend our state’s constitution kicked off, which requires the state Senate and House to approve a proposal in two consecutive sessions. Since the legislature approved it, the question went to you – the voters. Fortunately for school property tax opponents, this process did not involve Governor Wolf or his Lieutenant Governor.

Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to working with my reform-minded colleagues in the legislature to come up with meaningful solutions to address this crisis.

While passage of this amendment to our state’s constitution on its own does not cure our property tax plague, it gets the ball moving towards meaningful school property tax elimination for homeowners in Pennsylvania.