State Sen.. David G. Argall heads a committee that is looking at ways to replace using property taxes to fund school districts. So far, the group has only agreed that something must be done. (KEVIN MINGORA / THE MORNING CALL)
A group of state lawmakers seeking to eliminate or reduce school property taxes is “slowly moving toward consensus” and, with 8 hours of meetings behind it, will meet at least two more times, its leading member said Tuesday.
State Sen. David Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican, said the goal was to then meet a third and final time with the state House and Senate party leaders who appointed the informal group in early July.
“We have explored, I think, all of the options,” Argall said. “Now, the task remaining is to identify that bill or those bills that can get to the governor’s desk that he will sign and, most importantly, will have 102 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate.”
The much-disliked tax is based on the assessed value of properties and produces about $15 billion a year to fund school districts. Lawmakers have tried for years to come up with tax-shift plans to cut or eliminate property taxes.
House and Senate leaders of both parties appointed the “working group” in July to come up with a legislative plan by the time lawmakers return to Harrisburg later this month.
One group member, Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Northampton County Democrat, said discussions have run the gamut from total elimination of the tax to reduction to the granting of rebates.
The concept of taxing retirement income to help eliminate property taxes ― put forth recently in a proposal by state Rep. Frank Ryan, a Lebanon County Republican ― causes “a lot of angst among a lot of members,” Boscola said. But, she said, nothing has been ruled out.
Boscola said that while the group is not yet close to having a final plan, there is universal agreement that something needs to be done.
Argall has introduced legislation to get rid of property taxes in each of the last three legislative sessions. The last vote came in 2015, when a 24-24 tie in the Senate was broken by a negative vote by then-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.
One appointed group member, Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County, said Tuesday that family issues and involvement with another legislative issue forced him to drop out of the group.
But Folmer, who has been involved with the issue for years, said he would only support complete elimination of the tax.