Charities, cities at odds over constitutional amendment

    Pennsylvania voters may soon find themselves picking sides in a long-running dispute about who decides which charities should be exempt from taxes.

    It’s a decision with significant financial implications for the charities and the cities and towns where many are based.

    A constitutional amendment that passed the Legislature during its last session would give lawmakers explicit authority to establish standards about what qualifies as a purely public charity and is tax-exempt.

    If lawmakers approve it again in the next two years, the proposal goes before voters in the form of a statewide referendum.

    That could occur as early as May.

    Hospital organizations, religious groups and other nonprofits are urging lawmakers to advance the proposal. But municipal officials warn it could drain revenue from cities already facing chronic fiscal troubles.

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