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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fitzgerald takes up tax reassessments

Posted By on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Allegheny County President Rich Fitzgerald plans to introduce legislation tonight that will urge state government -- including Tom Corbett and a Republican-controlled legislature -- to halt Allegheny County's reassessment process. 

In a statement sent out around noon today, Fitzgerald said that the reassessment "singles out the residents and businesses of Allegheny County, and will have a profound chilling effect on ... economic developiment and business growth." Pennsylvania, he adds, "is the only state in the country that does not have a statewide system of organizing and conducting property reassessments, and that lack of a statewide structure is now resulting in one count being targeted for disparate treatment."

Fitzgerald adds that Harrisburg "should waste no time in creating a comprehensive and uniform stateiwde solution, rather than having a separate solution for each county imposed upon it by court action."

Yeah, Republicans! You can be the ones to risk pissing off voters in every single county! Fight those activist judges!

In fact, as Fitzgerald's statement notes, this issue could have been addressed in the last legislative session by House Bill 1661. That bill would have imposed a moratorium on court-ordered reassessments while the state studied a reassessment procedure that would have affected all counties equally. (Outgoing county exec Dan Onorato was fond of noting that reassessments would put Allegheny County at a disadvantage compared to neighboring counties where assessments were even further out of date.) Not surprisingly, the bill was heavily backed by Allegheny County legislators, and passed the House almost unanimously. It died anyway, though, bottled up in a Senate committee.  

Fitzgerald, it goes without saying, has long been considered a likely candidate for the Allegheny County Executive post. (Mark Patrick Flaherty, the county controller, will formally kick off his campaign tomorrow.) Some incorrigible cynics have even suggested there might be political motives at work here. I'm shocked, shocked to hear such speculation. 

But you gotta love the timing here. Gov. Tom Corbett was sworn in today, having run a campaign predicated on a "no new taxes" pledged. And here's his home county, pleading for his help in averting a revaluation that will amount to a tax increase for many of his erstwhile neighbors. Among them are plenty of suburbanites living in Republican strongholds where Corbett did well. Not a bad start if you're weighing a run for countywide office.

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