Pennsylvanians Approve Property Tax Reform

Published December 4, 2017

Pennsylvania voters approved a ballot question amending the state’s constitution to allow the General Assembly to give local taxing agencies the power to grant full property tax exemptions.

Before voters approved Resolution 1 in November 2017, the state constitution allowed local governments to grant homeowners property tax exemptions of up to 50 percent of their home’s median assessed value. The amendment allows the General Assembly to pass a law increasing the maximum value of a homeowner’s property tax exemption to 100 percent.

More Tools in the Toolbox

State Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill County), sponsor of Senate Bill 76, a bill that would shift local school property taxes to state income, property, and sales levies, says the resolution gives the bill’s supporters more tools to work with.

“With the approval of this referendum, we now have several more options in the Senate to move school property tax elimination forward that we did not possess before the election,” Argall said. “I will soon meet with the grassroots advocacy groups that are pushing for school property tax elimination to select our best options.”

Reforming Taxes and/or Spending

Bob Dick, a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, says the ballot question’s approval shows Pennsylvania taxpayers want property tax reform.

“The vote is definitely an indication that we have to do something about property taxes,” Dick said. “The question, though, is what the best way forward is.”

Dick says the state should reduce government spending instead of shifting around taxes.

“What [I] would prefer is to address the spending side of the equation rather than shifting the tax burden,” Dick said. “We have to focus on reducing costs in state and local governments.”

No Easy Answer

Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, says property tax reform will still take time.

“I don’t know that there is a hidden plan ready to be foisted on Pennsylvanians in the next few days,” Himes said. “The issue has always been about the fine print in the tax plans. If the process was easy, it wouldn’t have taken this long to figure it out.”

Michael Carroll ([email protected]) writes for An earlier version of this article was published at Reprinted with permission.