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I attended the PA House event on the elimination of school property taxes, supposedly a public hearing on the topic. The event was promoted as a balanced discussion of eliminating the burden of school taxes on property owners. In reality, it was a one-sided presentation by the Republican majority for Mr. Ryan’s plan to increase sales taxes by 2% and tax our retirement income by 4.9%.
Mr. Ryan said, “those that do not have retirement investments or limited investments get a win-win by paying no school tax or less school taxes.” But according to Ryan, his plan will raise $10 billion dollars in tax revenue, who is going to pay that tax?
Will it be those of us who heeded the advice that we need to be conservative and save for our retirement? Are we going to punish those who did what they were told when they lost their pensions and were given a 401k? Weren’t we told in the seventies to save in retirement investment accounts, and it would be tax free? Mr. Ryan stated PA is one a few states that doesn’t tax retirement. Mr. Google states that is false.
But, let me digress for a moment. Why has funding public education become such a major issue? Once upon a time, the state funded 50% of public education through our state income taxes. Over the last twenty years that has dwindled to 38%. The total budget for K-12 education in 2021 is $40.8 billion dollars. Twenty years ago, $20.4 billion would come from the state and $20.4 billion from property owners. Today, only $15.5 billion comes from the state and $25.3 comes from property owner. Why? I‘m sure it’s no secret that the state is on the brink of financial disaster. The Pennsylvania State Retirement System is $74 Billion dollars in debt. In addition, the Pennsylvanian Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System is $64 billion dollars in debt. The legislative oversight of these programs has been abysmal. How could they have allowed this much debt to accumulate? I find it shameful that they stood before you each year bragging that we had “no tax increases” knowing this fiscal time bomb was growing.
Calvin Clements is the former Democratic candidate for House District 101.