Berks Judicial Candidate Refuses to Answer Questions

Madeline Fudeman, a candidate for Common Pleas Court in Berks County has some serious questions to answer but refuses to do so.  Just because mainstream media aren’t asking them doesn’t make them irrelevant.  Daddy Justice posed these to the candidate and she refused to answer them.

The first question is why, on a BCTV television show, she claimed Sen. Judy Schwank endorsed and supported her.  She doesn’t.

Madelyn Fudeman Proof from Ben Vonderheide on Vimeo.

The second question is why a woman in Chicago would give over $100,000 to a judicial candidate in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Again, Fudeman refused to answer:

Madelyn Fudeman and the 101,000 question from Ben Vonderheide on Vimeo.

The third question posed was about the Fudeman family connections to alleged mob figure Abe Minker:

Update:  She lied about her tenure working under Janet Reno also:

If you cannot trust someone to tell the truth how do vote for them for Judge?

Video: Don’t Let Property Tax Plan Derail PA Schools

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

The future of Pennsylvania schools – and the quality of education every child receives – is at stake in a property tax proposal in Harrisburg.

The plan to swap property taxes for higher state levies will drain billions from Pennsylvania classrooms within a few years. Over time, it increases funding inequities across districts and makes it harder for future graduates to compete in a 21st century job market.

There is a better way. Watch our new whiteboard video to see how we can strengthen our schools, make funding more equitable, and address property tax concerns. Then share the video with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Video: Don't Let Property Tax Plan Derail PA Schools

Good schools are vital to every community and its economy. Yet the real problem, as our video explains, is that Pennsylvania trails most other states when it comes to state funding for public schools. By investing more state dollars in education, Pennsylvania can improve its schools and ease the pressure on property taxes.

In other words, we can have good schools AND help people having trouble paying their property taxes.

Same Sex Widow Files Suit For Discrimination

A lesbian widow has filed suit against the Commonwealth for discrimination in the state’s inheritance law.  Barbara Baus wed her partner Catherine Burgi-Rios in Connecticut and then filed for spousal coverage when her partner died.  Pennsylvania refused to recognize their legal marriage and assessed her the same rate as for strangers.  The constitution requires all states to recognize other state’s laws but in this case Pennsylvania is refusing to recognize Connecticut’s marriage equality law.

From the law firm representing Baus:

Widow files suit seeking equal tax treatment for same-sex marriages

Easton, PA – A widow residing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit seeking equal treatment

under Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax law. Barbara Baus and Catherine (“Cathy”) Burgi-Rios resided

together for more than 15 years when they married on April 29, 2011 in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Cathy died on September 21, 2012 at the age of 55, as a result of complications from her year-long

battle with leukemia.

Barbara and Cathy had a church wedding in 1999 and supported each other emotionally and

financially. They jointly owned a home, cars and bank accounts. Cathy named Barbara as her executor

and sole beneficiary of all of her assets in her Will. Barbara filed the required Inheritance Tax Return

with the Register of Wills of Northampton County, noting her status as Cathy’s spouse. She claimed the

spousal rate for Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax, which is zero. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

responded by stating her marriage is “not valid in Pennsylvania” and assessed taxes due under the rate

that applies to legal strangers, which is 15%, the highest rate of inheritance tax charged in Pennsylvania.

Barbara is challenging the taxes that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is seeking to

collect through a Petition filed on Friday with the Orphan’s Court of Northampton County by her

attorneys Benjamin Jerner and Tiffany Palmer at Jerner & Palmer, P.C., a law firm focusing its practice

on LGBT estate planning, estate administration and family law. Co-counsel for Barbara are Stanley A.

Pelli of Alexander & Pelli, LLC and Leonore F. Carpenter, Assistant Professor at Temple University

Beasley School of Law.

Barbara’s Petition claims that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s determination that it

will not recognize her marriage and apply the tax rate for spouses violates both the Pennsylvania and the

United States Constitutions. Specifically, Barbara’s suit raises the unique issue that Pennsylvania’s

Defendant of Marriage Act violates the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which

states that all taxes in Pennsylvania must be assessed upon the same classes in a uniform fashion. “This

case is a clear example of how Pennsylvania’s DOMA injures – in a very real way – same-sex couples

who have valid marriages,” said Benjamin Jerner, of Jerner & Palmer, P.C., one of Barbara’s attorneys.

“The Pennsylvania Constitution does not permit the Commonwealth to tax same-sex married couples

and opposite-sex married couples differently for inheritance tax,” said Tiffany Palmer, another attorney

for Barbara.

“I just want my marriage to be respected like any other marriage. It is hard enough to cope with

the loss of a spouse, but to have my marriage treated with such disregard is heartbreaking,” said Barbara.

“I know standing up for our equal rights is what Cathy would have wanted me to do.”

Death of an Adjunct

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Appearing earlier this month on a radio program in Pittsburgh with labor historian Charles McCollester, I heard for the first time the story of Margaret Mary Vojtko, a 25-year adjunct faculty member at Duquesne University who died recently in poverty at the age of 83.

Two and a half years ago, the Keystone Research Center released the most comprehensive state report in the United States on the rising use of adjunct faculty at colleges and universities. The numbers were sobering. Even if they cobbled together a full-time (10 courses per year) load at multiple institutions, adjunct community college faculty in Pennsylvania earned only about $25,000 annually. Contingent faculty members and instructors taught 42% of the courses at all public colleges and universities in Pennsylvania (versus 49% nationally). Most part-time/adjunct faculty members in Pennsylvania public higher education received no health or pension benefits.

Given cuts in state funding for higher education since we wrote our report, the situation is surely worse today in Pennsylvania.

How do we avoid a future in which a majority of higher education faculty earn less than a “quality” wage – a wage sufficient to give teachers time to prepare lessons, establish office hours, and provide feedback that increases student learning?

It would help if we honored the rights of part-time/contingent faculty to join a union – starting, for example, at Margaret Mary’s Duquesne. One game-changing option would give all part-time and contingent faculty at publicly funded Pennsylvania higher education institutions the freedom to form a single statewide local union. This would enable part-time and contingent faculty to negotiate statewide wage and benefit standards and working conditions consistent with teaching excellence. (This type of geographically based union that lifts up low wages and benefits in service industries that can’t relocate – because they have to be near their “customers” – is exactly what is needed to rebuild the middle class generally in Pennsylvania and the United States. See my earlier posts on fast food workers and on the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”)

State lawmakers also need to develop – and fund – a long-term plan for paying all higher education teachers a “quality wage.” In a world both moral and rational, this could be part of a broader plan that also makes post-secondary education affordable again for students, and marries online and in-person education to lower costs while maintaining quality.

This approach starts with values – the outcomes we want for students, faculty, and taxpayers – and then uses technology, collective problem-solving, and social negotiation to create a world that honors those values. Imagine the possibilities.

The story of Margaret Mary is a sad reminder that all public policy discussion should start from values – the world we want to create and, unfortunately, the world we want to avoid.

An Injunction Against the Truth

by Walter Brasch

Monday morning, Oct. 21, 2013. Vera Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse’s aide, was in Common Pleas Court for Susquehanna County, Pa., to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her.

Before her were four lawyers and several employees of Cabot Gas and Oil, who accused her of trespassing and causing irreparable harm to the company that had almost $1 billion in revenue in 2012. They didn’t want her on their property they owned or leased in the Marcellus Shale.

Scroggins is an anti-fracking activist, someone who not only knows what is happening in the gas fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, but willingly devotes much of her day to helping others to see and understand the damage fracking causes. Since 2010, she had led visitors, government officials, and journalists on tours of the gas fields, to rigs and well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads damaged by the heavy volume of truck traffic necessary to build and support the wells. As part of her tours, she introduces the visitors to those affected by fracking, to the people of northeast Pennsylvania who have seen their air and water polluted, their health impacted. The visitors come from New York, which has a moratorium on fracking; from Pennsylvania, which doesn’t; from surrounding states and from foreign countries, who want to see what fracking is, and what it does.

And now in a court room in Montrose, she was accused of trespassing and forced to defend herself.

She asked Judge Kenneth W. Seamans for a continuance. She explained she only received by mail the papers the previous Thursday and was told she had 20 days to respond. She explained on Friday a sheriff’s deputy came to her house with copies of the same papers that ordered her to court three days later. She explained she had tried to secure an attorney, but was unable to do so over the weekend.

Judge Seamans told her he wouldn’t grant a continuance because she didn’t give the court 24 hours notice. “He said that to grant a continuance would inconvenience three of the lawyers who had come from Pittsburgh, and I might have to pay their fees if the hearing was delayed,” says Scroggins.

In four hours, Cabot called several witnesses-employees, security personnel, and subcontractors-to testify they saw her trespassing. They claimed her presence presented safety risks. “What we’ve seen is an increase in frequency and also the number of visitors she is putting in harm’s way,” Cabot’s George Stark had told Staci Wilson of the Susquehanna County Independent.

In her defense, Scroggins called three friends who had accompanied her to court. They testified she was always polite and never posed a safety risk. She says when she went onto a Cabot location, she always reported to the security or field office, and never received any written warnings or demands in the two years she was at the sites. “When I was asked to leave, I left,” she says.

Cabot personnel replied she was never a visitor, even though she frequently had amicable chats with on-site managers since 2009. They claim she was on company-owned access roads; she replied she primarily used public roads and the times her car or a chartered bus might have been on access roads they never blocked them-unlike gas industry vehicles that often keep drivers bottled up in traffic jams or set times when residents can’t use public roads, even leading to their own homes, because of heavy frack-truck traffic.

“I was blocked after going on sites and access roads several times since 2009, and kept up to an hour,” says Sroggins, “but then allowed to leave.” No police were called, she says. “If I’m trespassing, then charge me,” she remembers saying. Cabot had never charged her, nor sent her any written demands to cease her visits.

For Cabot personnel, it had to be frustrating to have to deal with what they may have thought was a nosy pest who kept showing up at their work sites, possibly endangering herself, her own guests, and the workers. For Scroggins, she was there, explaining drilling to many who had never seen a rig or well pad, videotaping what was the truth about Cabot’s operations and fracking in the Marcellus Shale.

In court, she tried several times to explain that she had documented health and safety violations at Cabot sites, many of which led to fines and citations. She tried to explain that she has put hundreds of videotapes online or at YouTube to show the damage the company, and other companies, are doing to the people. Every time she tried to present the evidence, a Cabot lawyer objected, and the judge struck the testimony from the record.

However, when Judge Seamans asked her if she wished to take the stand to testify, stated she could be charged under criminal law and advised her she had the right to not speak and possibly incriminate herself-“I stopped talking.”

That afternoon, Judge Seamans granted Cabot its preliminary injunction.

The injunction forbids her from going onto any Cabot property. It forbids her to go onto any property where Cabot has a mineral lease, even if the owner of the surface rights grants her permission. That restriction may violate the rights of the owner who retains surface rights. About 40 percent of Susquehanna County is under lease to the gas and oil companies.

“I have a lot of friends who have leased mineral rights,” says Scroggins, “this means I can’t even go to their homes if invited.” She also can’t go to the recycling center-Susquehanna County leased 12.2 acres of mineral rights to Cabot.

There may be one advantage, however. If Scroggins is ever arrested, she won’t be able to go to the Susquehanna County jail. The jail is also on those 12.2 leased acres.

[Assisting on this column was Staci Wilson. Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overview of the economics, health, and environmental impacts of fracking.]

 

Stolz Driving Uninspected Car

Julian Stolz, the embattled East Penn School Director under fire for dating and contacting underage girls, is also driving an uninspected car.  The PA inspection on his auto expired on July 30, 2011 meaning he been driving illegally for over two years.  Someone stuck this message on his windshield at the last east Penn School Board meeting and you can see his expired stickers.

 photo StolzCarInspection_zps37945a8a.jpg

The cops also see it.  He has been cited several times both for the expired inspection and for failing to pay his annual registration fees.  I cited him several years ago for failing to comply with state campaign finance laws.  Does Stolz believe the laws don’t apply to him?  If I’d been caught contacting fourteen year olds or admitted hanging out at parties of ninth graders while 20 years old I’d have found the closest, deepest hole I could crawl in and hope people forgot about it ASAP.  Not Julian Stolz, he went on every news program he could find.  He is supposed to resign his position at East Penn at Monday’s meeting.  We’ll wait and see.

Update:  He was stopped and fined again on Friday.

More Fun With Shale Jobs Numbers

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Last week, the Marcellus Shale Coalition trumpeted a new claim on the shale drilling industry’s positive impact on Pennsylvania jobs:

Raymond James analysts crunched the numbers, and between 2005 and 2012 almost 90 percent of the job growth in Pennsylvania at that time came from oil and gas jobs … That’s the highest percentage of any state, according to analysts Pavel Molchanov and J. Marshall Adkins, who based the math off data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As meaningless statistics go, this is one of the more meaningless.

Here’s why: Since 2005, many states, including Pennsylvania, have created few jobs overall. Pennsylvania averaged 5,704,000 jobs in the 12 months of 2005 versus 5,746,000 for the 12 months ending August 2013 – a 42,000 increase. Given this small increase in the overall number of jobs, it doesn’t take a lot of shale jobs to account for a high percentage of this increase. In other words, 90% sounds like a lot (leaving aside whether the 90% claim is even accurate), but 90% of a small number is, well, a small number.

This leads to two other points. First, why didn’t Raymond James pick 2006? In Pennsylvania, the 12-month job average in 2006 was 5,755,000 – MORE than the most recent 12-month average number of 5,746,000 jobs. Since 2006, Pennsylvania has had no positive job growth, which might lead one to say the Marcellus Shale created infinity percent of the total growth in jobs in Pennsylvania since that year. In fact, with no overall job growth, drilling would have created infinity percent of the total job growth even if it had created just one positive job.

These 2006 calculations help answer why Raymond James started its analysis in 2005: 2005 is far enough back for overall job growth in virtually every state to be positive but small. Starting in 2006 would make the shale shares of overall job growth nonsensical in many states, including Pennsylvania (since overall growth was negative). And going back to 2003 or 2004 would increase overall job growth relative to shale job growth, and begin to convey the reality that shale is a small part of the overall economy. Nice job of cherry picking the period of analysis to fuel a preconceived narrative, Raymond James.

The second point is that Pennsylvania’s high ranking for share of jobs coming from shale since 2005 stems partly from the state’s poor recent jobs performance. If Pennsylvania’s job growth since 2010 had kept pace with national job growth over the same period, we would have roughly another 100,000 jobs today. A higher number for overall job growth since 2010 – and hence since 2005 – would make the modest number of Marcellus Shale jobs created since 2005 substantially lower than 90%.

So in a strange way the Raymond James/Marcellus Shale Coalition claim about shale job growth since 2005 is partly a celebration of Pennsylvania’s disappointing overall job growth since 2010. Does the Marcellus Shale Coalition really mean to draw attention to this?

News & Notes October 21, 2013

New Jersey began same sex marriages this morning as Gov. Chris Christie halted his official appeal of a court ruling mandating marriage equality.  The Garden State is the fourteenth to legalize same sex marriage.

The New Mexico Supreme Court should weigh in by Wednesday on marriage equality there.  It should become the fifteenth state.  As usual Pennsylvania is stuck in the eighteenth century.

As I watch gas prices come down they’re nearing the point at which I bought gas in New Mexico.  If you gas up on Native America reservations there you save on gas taxes.  I paid $3.19/gallon on my most recent trip to The Land of Enchantment.  It was $3.51 elsewhere.

State Rep. Brendan Boyle is calling for an investigation into the state Workers Compensation system.  It seems their faulty software is causing delays for those injured on the job.  Workers Compensation is designed to provide coverage and disability payments to workers hurt or who got diseases like mesothelioma from their jobs.  In exchange for not being able to sue their employers they are supposed to be provided health and disability coverage.  Unfortunately the system is designed to protect businesses from their negligence rather than provide quick and fair compensation to workers.

Pittsburgh is feeling a bit deflated this morning after its giant rubber duck has been flattened and put away.

Sen. Pat Toomey along with Congressmen Joe Pitts, Scott Perry, Tom Marino and Keith Rothfus all voted for the United States to default on its debt.  So much for fiscal responsibility.  Republicans got us into this deficit mess and now they refuse to pay their bills?

State Sen. Jim Ferlo has introduced a bill to impose a moratorium on fracking.  Until studies are completed to fully understand the impact of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas all new permits for wells would be suspended.

Another homophobic Republican has been outed as having a gay past.  This time it’s an Alabama Judge.

Viewers of Fox News continue being the most misinformed voters in America.  Is that due to the crap they pull out of their butts and present as factual news stories?  Here are some surprising things Faux News viewers believe.

While conservatives cut $4 billion in food stamps after crashing the economy and sending millions of Americans into poverty, one in three children in Scranton now live in poverty.  News flash:  food banks are unable to pick up the slack and now supposed “pro life” conservatives are going to starve children.

Pennsylvania’s health care system for the poor is poorly ranked.  The Corbett Fiasco has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians being tossed from health care coverage.  Again, how “pro life” is it when you remove health care from people?  

Former State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, now doing home confinement as part of her conviction for political corruption, may face real prison as a consequence of her refusal to fully comply with the terms of her sentence.  She is balking at having to write letters of apology to fellow jurists.  The arrogance of the Ories never ends.  Send the bitch to prison.

Another charter school criminal goes to jail.  How long will it take until we awake and realize that these charter schools are not just underperforming public schools but their owners are corrupt?

By the way, charter schools should not be considered “public” schools.  Public means the people own them.

The State House is discussing a large transportation bill this fall.  The state’s roads and bridges are in horrendous condition.  PennDOT restricted 1,000 bridges this summer because of their poor condition.  Conservatives must bite the bullet and approve new funding sources before there’s a tragedy.

Gun nut Mark Kessler is going through the process of being fired from his job in Gilberton amidst a new action filed against him in court.  It seems he’s also raising an irresponsible gun nut son.

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf (my favorite) is going after gas corporations for criticizing proposals to tax the industry.  The PA GOP already shot itself in the foot by going after Allyson Schwartz for proposing taxes on energy companies removing natural gas which belongs to the people of this Commonwealth with no remuneration to them.

Gas companies are now attempting to transfer the small impact fees they’re currently paying onto those landowners from whom they lease land.  Instead of paying the impact fee themselves they trying to pass it onto the leaseholders.  Greedy bastards.

Computer glitches continue plaguing Healthcare.gov as ObamaCare rolls out.  This seems primarily to be because of privatization of the effort.  Private businesses aren’t good at providing government services simply because they aren’t government.

Bill Maher educated a Republican about the ACA in this clip:

Income inequality in America is now equal to that of your average banana republic.  Democracies are unable to survive when there is this much disparity.  I saw something this morning pointing out that the twenty richest Americans earn more from their investments in one year than we spend aggregately as a nation on education.

Are You Ready for Less Academics?

by Walter Brasch

           Fewer people know the names of the recent Nobel laureates than the starting quarterbacks for Division I college teams. To find out why, I went to Green Valley College where the regional chief accreditor, unable to find a tailgate party, was grilling the president.

           “How’s your football team doing this season?” was the first question.

           “Our football team?” asked the president.

           “Yes, your football team. The most important part of any major college.”

           “We’re 1-and-5 and very proud of our team,” said a beaming president, noting the players had the fewest penalties of any team in the conference.

           “You have a full allotment of NCAA scholarships and you’re still only 1 and 5?”

           “We diverted our athletic scholarships to academic scholarships.”

           “This is serious. I assume you’re planning to replace your coach.”

           “We hadn’t thought about it,” said the president, mystified by the inquiry. “Coach Samuels is one of the nation’s most respected environmental physicists, teaches a full load of courses, and then works out the team an hour or two in the evenings.”

           “An hour or two?” said the accreditor, mockingly. “No wonder your school has such a dismal record! Most colleges have twice-a-day drills for two or three hours at a time, and then spend the rest of the day in the weights room or watching game films. The students don’t even go to class in the Fall. Your coaching staff must be lazy not to work your athletes more.”

           “We only have two assistant coaches. One teaches sociology, the other is an anthropologist.”

           “Most colleges have a dozen coaches,” said the accreditor. “How can you not have assistant coaches for ends, backs, and nose guards?”

           “We have a good staff in our anatomy and physiology labs,” said the president, adding that with additional assistant directors in Music and Theatre, the college produces professional-class musical comedies.

           “Who cares? How many of your athletes went on to professional NFL careers?”      The president beamed, and excitedly told the accreditor about alumni who went into the creative arts, others who are leaders in social work and environmental science, and of graduates who are among the nation’s leaders in almost every field of scientific research.

           “Business!” roared the Chairman. “How many of your graduates are in high paying corporate jobs!”

           The president thought hard, but could think of only a half dozen of his recent graduates who went into corporate business, and then only because they couldn’t get any other job. “Of course,” said the president, “a few dozen of our graduates enter law and med school every year.”

           The accreditor’s face finally lit up. “Oh, so you do have wealthy alumni! Why didn’t you say so!”

           The president shook his head. “Most of our alumni lawyers are into consumer law, and our med school graduates usually become family physicians or work with the poor.”

           “Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.” Also not a good sign was the social atmosphere on campus. “I didn’t see fraternity or sorority houses on campus. In fact, hardly anyone even knows where the nightly parties are.”

           “I guess that isn’t helping our cause for reaccreditation, is it?” asked the president. He didn’t have to ask since the accreditor was now writing furiously. “Your building fund? Any new recreation or student union buildings?”

           “We’re planning a new building to house our community service programs.” The accreditor hardly looked up he was so disgusted. “The average SAT of incoming freshmen is 1200,” blurted the sweating president. “We had two Rhodes Scholars and one Danforth fellowship last year! One of our profs just won a Pulitzer. Ninety percent of our faculty hold the doctorate!”

           “Any of them All-Americans?”

           “Our Intercollegiate Debate Team was national champion last year! The Student Social Welfare Club led the fight against conversion of apartments into condos!”

           “Redeem yourself with committees,” shouted the accreditor. “Do you have more committees than scholarships?”

           “We believe most committees are wastes of time that encourage their members to be arrogant and act irrationally.”

           The accreditor’s aide calmed him down long enough so he could ask a final question. “How much of your budget is spent on sending your administrators and faculty to phony academic conferences to schmooze and pat each other’s behinds?”

           “None,” wept the president, “our budget usually goes to improving instructional supplies to keep our students and faculty current in their fields.”

           The accreditor slammed his notebook shut and walked away. The president called after him, “When will we know whether we have been reaccredited?”

           The accreditor stopped a moment, turned around, and shouted, “When you become a real educational institution.”

           [Dr. Brasch, who admits to having once been an athlete, is a former college professor and now a sedentary journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.]

 

What’s At Stake for PA Schools in Property Tax Debate?

Michael Wood, Third and State

The latest proposal to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania would leave school districts with $2.6 billion less in overall funding within five years, according to an analysis from the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office. Matthew Knittel of the IFO presented the findings during a Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday.

The plan – proposed in both HB 76 and SB 76 – would swap school property taxes for higher state income and sales taxes, largely on individuals. The IFO, which did not take a position on the bill, compared what could be expected from the new mix of state funding to projected property tax revenue over time and tallied the fiscal impact on school districts and state government.

Much like with previous versions of this property tax plan, the numbers don’t add up. The IFO projects school districts would receive $112 million less in funding than they would have received from property taxes in 2014-15, which grows to $2.6 billion by 2018-19

The reason is fairly simple. The bills place an artificial limit (the lower of sales tax growth or rate of inflation) on how much in new income and sales tax dollars go to school districts to replace lost property taxes in future years. This is true even if those state tax collections exceed the caps, as they likely would in most years. The bill does not address how schools are to pay for increasing pension obligations, let alone costs for health care, supplies, or utilities that may increase in price faster than inflation.

Like all tax swaps, this one picks winners and losers – with Pennsylvania’s school students and the state’s future among the biggest losers.

Corporations, which pay about 30% of all property taxes and are among the largest taxpayers in many districts, would come out as big winners. Their school property taxes would be eliminated, but unlike individuals or small businesses, corporations would pay no more in state taxes. Instead, their share of school funding would be shifted to individuals and small business owners who pay income taxes and consumers who pay sales tax. (Many goods and services purchased by businesses would remain exempt from the state sales tax under this plan).

Renters, including many seniors, would see higher sales tax and income tax bills, but little “relief” in the form of lower rent payments. For low-income families, this plan is Robin Hood in reverse, with poor renters paying higher taxes to subsidize tax cuts for wealthy property owners.

For non-elderly homeowners, it’s a mixed bag. Homeowners would see their local property taxes decline, but their state income taxes would rise. Many homeowners would also see their federal taxes increase, as they would lose a deduction for paying property taxes.

Many school districts have already adopted earned income taxes to reduce dependence on property taxes. Taxpayers in those districts would pay increased state taxes to subsidize property tax cuts in other parts of the state.

The change could make houses in Pennsylvania less affordable in the future. When California adopted property tax limits, it saw housing prices skyrocket. 

Many seniors and people with medical conditions would have to pay sales tax on an array of health care goods and services.

Finally, schools would receive much less than they need to help students succeed. Good schools are the lifeblood of a community and its economy. If we shortchange our schools, how will Pennsylvania ever prepare better workers for tomorrow’s economy or attract and retain businesses that need skilled workers?

Paying property taxes are a real problem for some homeowners and in some specific areas of the state. We should address those concerns with targeted reforms rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that has been adopted nowhere else in the nation. Some of the reform efforts, like Act 1 of 2006, have helped moderate property tax growth – and the IFO report reflects that. Many districts have adopted earned income taxes to lessen reliance on property taxes.

The most effective way to ease Pennsylvania’s over-reliance on local sources for school funding is to increase the state’s support of education. Pennsylvania trails most states in state funding for schools, creating tremendous inequities across districts. A good education should not depend on where a child lives. The state needs to make – and keep – a commitment to provide a larger share of school funding. That is the key to a healthier economy and a better Pennsylvania.