Property Tax Reform

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For the first time in almost thirty years, Pennsylvania has passed major property-tax cuts. In an unusual display of election year bipartisanship, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell and the Republican-controlled legislature agreed on a series of measures designed to lower property taxes. There are two components to the legislation. First, the number of senior citizens eligible for property-tax rebate checks was nearly doubled. Second, most homeowners will have their property taxes reduced. Lawmakers are planning to pay for the tax cuts with revenue raised by casino gambling, which was recently legalized in Pennsylvania. Some state residents, however, might like to move in a more progressive direction and rely even less on property taxes and more on income taxes.

Things have not worked out so smoothly for property tax reform in Washington State. A Superior Court Judge has ruled Initiative 747 unconstitutional. The 2001 voter-approved initiative capped increases in state and local property taxes at 1 percent. Governor Christine Gregoire has said that if this ruling survives an appeal she will support some type of property tax reform. Early indications are that the Governor and legislators are specifically interested in reform that would benefit the elderly and low-income families.

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