HARRISBURG, Oct. 15, 2013 — State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement following a public hearing this morning on Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76, legislation that would replace the current property tax system with increases in the personal and sales taxes:

“After listening to the testimony by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) about the real-world implications of these companion bills, I am convinced we need to continue this conversation. The proposals have significant fiscal consequences, despite their laudable intentions, in trying to find a way to relieve taxpayers from a severely flawed system.

“The current tax structure for funding public education in this commonwealth is obsolete, dysfunctional, inequitable and onerous, particularly on our fixed-income seniors and younger, working-class families trying to build wealth as first-time homebuyers,” Blake said.

According to the Independent Fiscal Office, the 76s both result in a $1 billion deficit for our public schools over the five-year period ending in 2017-‘18.

Blake said the IFO report shows that if SB 76 had been law from 2003 to 2013, Pennsylvania School districts would have received between $9.3 billion and $27.5 billion fewer dollars.

“For the past five years in the 22nd Senatorial District alone, 13 school districts have received just $1 dollar from the state for every $2 dollars they’ve had to raise locally. The local tax burden has risen from $297 million in 2008-2009 to $340 million in 2012-2013 while the state’s share of meeting the cost of public education has been flat or declining,” Blake said.

“The business community of this commonwealth has also gone on record in voicing concerns about this legislation and we should, in a bipartisan way, balance their interests with the wellbeing of individuals and families to achieve the best possible outcome for resolving Pennsylvania’s school property tax burdens and school funding challenges,” the senator said.

“I believe the conversation has to continue until we can find a solution set that addresses the crisis in many jurisdictions of the state where families and, particularly, seniors are at risk of losing their homes due to the extraordinary burden associated with school property taxes. We also must ensure that we meet our constitutional obligation to sustain a thorough and efficient system of public education. In the end, the state must meet a greater share of the overall cost of public education in order to take the burden off of the local tax base,” Blake said.