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Author: Tony Phyrillas
Date:  February 20, 2007

Topic category:  Other/General

Pennsylvania needs to stage a tax revolt

The Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Ed Rendell, passed Act 1 of 2006, another travesty disguised as tax relief legislation. Rendell signed it into law. The majority of Pennsylvania taxpayers will suffer under Act 1 — unless we can persuade the Legislature to repeal it.

The experts said it couldn't be done.

The Pennsylvania Legislature would never repeal the pay raise its members gave themselves at 2 a.m. on July 7, 2005, according to people in the know, including political science professors, columnists and assorted pundits.

The Mercury decided to launch "Operation Giveback" anyway. In the months after the pay raise vote, The Mercury asked its readers to sign letters demanding the Legislators repeal the pay raise. The grassroots effort collected 10,000 letters from readers. The letters were hand-delivered to the state Capitol.

The rest, as they say, was history. The Legislature repealed the pay raise. The only person to vote against the repeal, Mike Veon, would lose in the following election cycle. Fifty-five legislators who supported the pay raise would be tossed out by voters or decided to retire rather than face the voters.

Legislators have told me that the delivery of 10,000 letters from voters had more of an impact on Legislative leaders (to push for the repeal) than all the newspaper editorials and columns and blog postings combined.

Can it happen again?

The Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Ed Rendell, passed Act 1 of 2006, another travesty disguised as tax relief legislation. Rendell signed it into law. The majority of Pennsylvania taxpayers will suffer under Act 1 — unless we can persuade the Legislature to repeal it.

To that end, The Mercury is once again asking readers to flood the Legislature with mail. The editorial below (which explains the shortcomings of Act 1) gives all the details. It ran in Sunday's edition of The Mercury. A similar appeal was published in one of our sister papers, The Times Herald of Norristown. We hope other newspapers will join the campaign.

Read the highlights from the editorial below originally published in The Mercury and send in your letter.

We (the people) did in 2005. We can do it again.

Join us in demanding legislators take another look at school tax reform

First there was Act 72, and now there is Act 1, the tax reform scams of 2005 and 2006.

As area school districts are now preparing their ballot referendums to comply with Act 1, the discontent with this 2006 attempt at tax reform is becoming more evident.

The law does nothing to reform school funding in Pennsylvania and serves only to take taxes out of one pocket instead of the other without providing meaningful relief for the working homeowner.

The law has three main parts. It attempts to limit future tax increases by subjecting districts to a referendum on any tax increase above the inflation index and on building projects. It distributes money earned from slot parlors to schools for property tax reduction, and it forces districts to offer a tax-shifting referendum on May 15.

But the measure fails on all three fronts.

The legislature has in its power many ways to limit school spending or to help districts control spending through prevailing wage exemptions and consolidated purchasing power. But a school district exploding with growth cannot stop building schools or paying for additional teachers. Giving voters a false sense of control of spending is irresponsible legislation.

The distribution of money from slots is a promise yet to be realized. And it also depends on people losing money in order for a tax break.

The tax-shifting referendum is the biggest scam of all.

Districts are able to word their own ballot question, basing it on whether they want to propose an increase in personal income tax or earned income tax. They must also determine the amount of the increase, ranging from .5 percent to 2.5 percent, for the ballot question.

Citizen tax study commissions — also a requirement of Act 1 — have been making recommendations to all school boards in recent weeks and their reports reveal the problems with the law.

The majority of renters and working class families will end up paying more in taxes under Act 1.

If that's not a scam, we don't know what it is.

As with the pay-raise debacle in 2005, newspapers are taking the public's frustration with Act 1 to Harrisburg with a demand that legislators get back to work on a true solution to the problem of relying on local property taxes to fund public schools.

We ask you to join us in asking Gov. Ed Rendell and our state legislators to take a hard look at school funding and craft a plan that truly reforms the system of taxation and takes the burden off local school districts and the working-class homeowner.

They tried last year with a months-long special session on tax reform, and the result was Act 1. Clearly, the effort failed, and lawmakers need to try again.

If you're opposed to Act 1, please write to: Operation Tax Scam, The Mercury, 24 N. Hanover St., Pottstown, PA 19464.

We will collect letters sent to us as part of a campaign shared with The Times-Herald newspaper in Norristown and the Daily Local News newspaper in West Chester and will forward them to legislators.

Tony Phyrillas
http://tonyphyrillas.blogspot.com (Columnist)

Biography - Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas

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