“A battle over executive authority versus legislative authority is brewing over the firing, and subsequent re-instatement of the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, Erik Arneson.”- Read more.Read More →
From both sides of the political aisle, newly-indicted Kathleen Kane feels the pressure to step down.Read More →
Governor Wolf has approved $3.5 million in order to be prepared should a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak occur in PA.Read More →
Another official falls in the cash for favors sting Attorney General Kane refused to prosecute.Read More →
A shooting in Westmoreland County has left one dead and put the entire county on guard for more potential violence as the shooter remains at large.Read More →
The accident involved a vehicle that had crashed into a “crash truck” in one of the lanes marked off as being closed. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, though there were injuries.Read More →
Tax Cut Power Grab
Opinion- The Editor dissects Governor Wolf’s property tax cut proposal and what it means to Tioga County.
Paul Gordon Collier- An old adage comes to mind when I think about the current debate over property tax reform. The old adage goes something like this, “He who owns the gold makes the rules.” This idea of the one who holds the gold being the one who makes the rules is the primary principle why I stand in opposition to a tax cut that could save my family over $1000 a year.
As we covered in the last issue of the Tioga Freedomist, Governor Tom Wolf has released his budget for the fiscal year starting in July of 2015. One of the major components of his budget proposal was property tax reform.
Governor Wolf’s budget outlines a plan the Governor claims will reduce property taxes by as much as 50 percent. He plans on doing this by funding education through a severance tax (so-called ‘fracking tax’) and other new taxes on everything from cigarettes to child care. His plan calls on Harrisburg increasing the percentage it pays for public education from 35 percent to 50 percent. To put that in perspective, that increases Harrisburg’s part in the public education budget by a staggering 43%.
What most people might hear in this debate is that Governor Wolf will cut your property taxes by 50 percent. As a homeowner, let me tell you that this news would personally have a huge impact on my family’s financial situation.
But, if you simply stop at the opening sentence, you will miss some very important intended or unintended consequences of such a move, as well as miss out on the possibly disputable fact that, at the end of the day, you will still be sending as much of your money (if not more) to governments (be they local, county or state) as you were before the promised 50 percent property tax cut.
The Wolf tax cut is not a tax cut at all, but a re-assignment of tax collector. The local and county governments will not be collecting as much revenue as they were, but the state government, Harrisburg, will be collecting more.
As anyone who has ever sat in on a local government meeting knows (be they borough meetings or county meetings), a majority of the actual work that that local government does is grant writing and lobbying for a bigger cut of the budgets of the governments higher up in the hierarchy. Any dollar that comes from a higher office always has strings attached.
What this proposal actually means, if it were to go through, is that the power of local governments would be even more reduced while Harrisburg’s power increases. A smaller group of individuals will have greater say on the money that local schools get and the conditions the local schools must meet to accept that money.
Coupled with this proposal to replace the local property tax collector with the Harrisburg sales tax collector is Governor Wolf’s bipartisan commission to develop a fair funding formula that will ‘distribute education dollars to local districts.”
This commission will decide whether Tioga County gets to keep more or less of the money the state collects from it, with a significant portion being money that the localities once had the power to control themselves. Perhaps, if Tioga County is one of the fortunate localities favored by this commission, it may get MORE money than the state collected. Maybe Tioga County will get some of Dauphin County’s dollars, or, as is more likely, maybe Dauphin County will get some of the dollars our local school districts once collected and put back into our schools.
When one hears of a tax cut, one that could actually reduce their taxes by $1000 or more a year (as in my case), one cannot help but be tempted by such a proposal. But when the benefit of that savings (even if it were NOT offset by new taxes, ones that will actually regressively affect the bottom 20 percent) means a loss of local sovereignty and more direct accountability by a local community, I must singularly, aggressively, reject such a power grab by Harrisburg.
Patrick Henry once said, “Give me Liberty or Give me death.” Perhaps I can change that to, “Give me local sovereignty, even if it means higher property taxes.”
America was founded on a principle of individual liberty from which we created the great laboratory where many ideas could be tried, with the successful ones being repeated by other local communities. This proposal is yet another step towards killing the great engine that made America one of the most significant innovators of the past 200 plus years. The more we consolidate power in small circles, the more we kill that great engine, Liberty.
Read about the Governor’s Budget here.
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Paul Gordon Collier- Pennsylvania politics is receiving some national attention this week from the conservative news publication, National Review. John Fund, a National Review and also a Wall Street Journal correspondent, focused his attention on an obscure state legislative race in Philadelphia’s 170th State House District this past Tuesday night.
The special election was to fill a void left behind by the previous state representative in that Philadelphia district, Brendan Boyle (D). The GOP put 26 year old Martina White against the democratic challenger, Sarah Del Ricci. Del Ricci was a hand-picked candidate by the current Lieutenant Governor, Mike Stack III.
John Fund, in the National Review article, stated, “The governor has said he plans to provide property-tax relief with some of the money, but the tax increases are likely to outweigh the property-tax benefits by a ratio of three to one. Apparently, voters in Northeast Philadelphia didn’t buy that logic. A tax revolt is alive and well in the Keystone state, and the Republican legislature would be foolish to go along with Wolf’s predatory increases.”
Other factors in the race, however, may have been the candidate selected by Lieutenant Governor Stack. The candidate, Del Ricci, was not favored by the Unions, who actually broke in favor of the GOP candidate, Martina White. Boyle, the man whose former seat was being contested, stated, “This could have remained a Democratic seat.”
Boyle pinned the loss less on the tax issue and more on “personal relationships” getting in the way of picking a candidate the base of the democratic party in that district (as represented by the Union leaders) would favor. Boyle also criticized Del Ricci for not working as hard as White to win the election.
Whether the race was about taxes or unions feeling left out, the election produced only the second Republican to represent the city of Philadelphia in state-wide office. It was also the first time a republican picked up an open seat in an election in over 25 years. The fact that the democrat who lost was one hand-selected by the new Lieutenant Governor is bad news both for the him and the current Governor, Tom Wolf, who is already dealing with a democratic party at odds over the recent Attorney General controversy.
The win extends the GOP’s super majority in the State Assembly to 120-83, creating yet another impediment for the Governor to get pieces of his agenda passed through the PA State legislature.
Reveling in her victory, White said in her Election night speech, “”It’s an honor to have the level of support we’ve had. I know it’s a major upset for my opponent and probably the lieutenant governor as well.”
The fact that the GOP candidate won the election by 14 points makes this win all the more stunning in a district in which registered democrats outnumber registered republicans by a 2 to 1 margin.
Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason said this about White’s 14-point victory:
“The Republican Party of Philadelphia has turned the corner with Representative-elect Martina White’s victory today. The hard work of Republican Party of Philadelphia is paying off, and I am confident that tonight’s win will be the first of many victories to come for the Philly GOP…..In the first election after the Democrats announced their plans to hold their 2016 National Convention in Philadelphia, Republicans have delivered a resounding welcome with a huge win.”
In the 2014 Election, Pennsylvania was the only state to flip a Governor from a republican to a democrat, despite producing historic GOP majorities in the State House and State Senate. This latest upset victory for the GOP, with a 14 point majority included, may indicate democrats have a lot to do to win back the voters of Pennsylvania, despite their victory in the Governor’s race in 2014.
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