Gov. Tom Wolf is heaping praise on Pennsylvania’s House, after the GOP-controlled chamber passed a property tax-overhaul plan with bipartisan support. Wolf called it “the first substantive property tax reform bill” in his lifetime.
It anticipates raising more than $4 billion in higher sales and personal income taxes in order to force property tax bills down. Opponents said Wednesday they doubt the plan would bring about lasting tax relief. Others said they were holding out for property tax elimination. Some voiced concerns that the proposed tax shift would fall more heavily on individuals than on large businesses.
Even Wolf said he’d still like to change a few things about the House plan.
“I have my thoughts on that, but I think this is, as I say, a conversation so I think it’s bad to go into that conversation with too many publicly stated ideas,” he said.
The governor’s own property tax-overhaul plan was part of his budget proposal unveiled in March. It would have expanded the number of purchases subjected to sales taxes, something fiercely opposed by Republicans and special interest groups in recent months. It would have earmarked some tax revenue for state spending purposes. And it would have targeted more funding for cities and poor school districts.
House Democratic leaders said Wednesday they’ll continue to push for those items.
“This is the start,” said Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.
GOP Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, agreed that the negotiation “table” has been “set” with the House passage of the property tax plan. But he said his members would only vote for tax increases if the revenue went entirely to property tax relief.
Still, Wolf was sanguine about the bill’s passage.
“You could say I jump-started the idea in my budget address,” said Wolf, “but what happened yesterday was the result of Democratic leaders and Republican leaders sitting down together and coming up with a way to move this conversation forward.”Wolf threw a bit more shade the Senate’s way when asked about the GOP-crafted pension overhaul, which passed in the chamber along party lines Wednesday. Wolf does not support the proposal.
“The Senate would do well to take a page from the House’s playbook,” said House Democratic Caucus Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton.