In addition to several statewide judicial races, the upcoming November election includes a ballot measure that could change the way Pennsylvanians pay taxes or make no difference at all.
Voters will elect candidates to all three statewide courts. There is one open seat on the Supreme Court and two judges standing for retention. There are four open seats on the Superior Court and one judge standing for retention. Finally, there are two open seats on the Commonwealth Court.
The Ballot Question
If passed, the measure would amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution to permit the exclusion of “up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction.”
In plain English, this constitutional change could give localities the power to eliminate homeowners' property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a different tax source—potentially an income or sales tax. The question does not include relief for business property taxes or rental property taxes. The ballot question does not fund any property tax reductions; if the ballot question passes, the General Assembly would still need to pass enabling legislation.
Here’s a summary of the complicated process that could lead to a dramatic shift in tax burdens across the commonwealth’s localities:
CF has not taken a position on the ballot measure. However, we have raised concerns about similar tax shift proposals in the past. Our primary concern is these tax shifts do not address rising spending, which is the root cause of rising property taxes. A shift only transfers tax burdens to a different group of taxpayers and fails to provide broad-based relief.
Meaningful education reforms—at the state and local level—are needed to provide real relief to all Pennsylvanians, not just a segment of the population. These reforms should include school choice, mandate relief for school districts, limits on collective bargaining, school contract transparency, and additional reforms to the state’s pension system.
The need to address property taxes is indisputable. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania’s property tax burden is the 13th highest in the country. Reducing this burden will require reining in spending at the state and local level. Any alternative short of reducing costs will fail to provide the relief families and business need.