Will school property taxes finally be on the chopping block? | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Will school property taxes finally be on the chopping block? 

Conservative advocates and legislators' "white whale" could transfer school funding away from homeowners, if passed.

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Sometimes described as the “white whale” of Pennsylvania politics, the elimination of state property taxes has been a goal of several advocates and state legislators, mostly conservatives, for years. 

Property taxes currently provide 41 percent of state revenue for public schools. Advocates want to replace that revenue stream with modest increases in income and sales tax, about 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Critics say this wouldn’t cover school funding obligations, and the tax increases would disproportionately hurt low-income residents.   

But proponents say rising property taxes in rural areas are hurting homeowners, in some cases costing them hundreds of dollars a month on top of mortgages. 

In 2015, the state Senate came within one vote of passing this bill, with support on both sides of the aisle. But Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) cast the tie-breaking vote against the initiative. If the state Senate keeps a similar make-up, this vote could come down to the next lieutenant governor: either Democrat John Fetterman, who opposes, or Republican Jeff Bartos, who supports.

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Champions: State Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-South Fayette) co-sponsored several bills to end property taxes

Opponents: Lt. Gov. candidate John Fetterman (D-Braddock)

Integral Candidates: Scott Wagner (R-York), Michael Puskaric (R-Elizabeth), Joshua Nulph (R-Harrison)

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“I heard Pennsylvanians loud and clear: They want property taxes eliminated,” said Scott Wagner to Sunbury’s Daily Item. “I am the only hope that people have to have their school taxes eliminated."

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By the Numbers: 14 of 19 school districts in Beaver County recently proposed property tax increases between 1.75-4 percent.

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