Stupid Voters!

After defeat of the Act 1 tax shift almost universally (the Patriot News identified only two districts that approved the shift, and one of those by a very tentative one vote margine), Governor Rendell is already blaiming voters’ ignorance and the legislature.

“The governor doesn’t believe that defeat of the tax-shifting question is an indication of anything other than confusion,” said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Rendell.

The Governor also announced on PCN last night that he was opposed to voter referendum for a tax shift, because voters wouldn’t understand what is at stake, and blamed the legislature for passing the buck. Quoted by

Rendell told Pennsylvania Cable Network viewers on Tuesday night that “this was a bad idea. This was not my idea. This was from the Legislature. We should have the courage in Harrisburg to do tax-shifting statewide.”

If Rendell thinks voters are too stupid to understand the tax shift, he must also think they are too stupid to remember him pushing for it (I may doing Steve Miskin’s work for him, but oh well).

The Governor helped negotiate the bill in conference committee, saying:

The Governor congratulated legislative conferees for reporting out a solid bill that represents a historic compromise and the largest property tax relief package in Pennsylvania history. … We are also reforming how school taxes are set. This bill ensures tax rates are fair and gives the voters a voice in large tax increases. In addition, it enables school districts to decrease their reliance on property taxes and shift to a fairer tax base – a local income tax.”

The Governor then called out House members to approve Act 1. Rendell did not publicly reject, but did not give any support to a plan from House Republicans to shift from property taxes to a state sales tax, instead insisting that they pass Act 1 as it was written.

The Governor lauded Act 1 as the greatest piece of legislation in human history, at that time praising the tax shift referendum:

No State imposed income tax shift. Act 72 required school districts to raise their earned income tax (EIT) by one-tenth of a percent in order to qualify for state-funded tax relief. Now every school district will be able to receive tax relief from the state – without any mandate to raise local taxes. The Taxpayer Relief Act leaves the decision to shift to income taxes up to local voters, with no strings attached. “

Unfortunately for the Governor, Act 1 was clearly his plan while he was campaigning for Governor, but not his plan after it failed to resonate with voters.

The Commonwealth Foundation has, however, been very consistent in our analysis of Act 1 – calling it a facade from the get-go:

Back-End” Referendum No Taxpayer Protection
School Property Taxes: No Relief, No Control
Property Tax ‘Relief’ that Isn’t Relief
Referendum Amendment Fails to Protect Taxpayers

Voters rejection of Act 1 was not a matter of “confusion,” but the principle that tax shifting doesn’t solve the problem of excessive school spending and taxes. Real reform, which includes parental choice and competition, could.