Property Taxes, HB76

I’m a Libertarian, and that means I never met a tax I ever liked, and the worst of all taxes is the property tax.  It’s responsible for tossing seniors out of their homes, chiseling away at multi-generational homesteads, and erecting barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers.  As governor, I would work to eliminate the property tax by the best means possible.  I support the goals of bills such as HB 76, but I have some serious concerns with the means it uses to achieve them.

The fact is that we spend far too much on education, and I’m concerned that this and similar bills would do nothing more than hide that fact without addressing any of the underlying reasons.  Another concern is that the question of increasing school taxes would no longer be a neighborhood decision made locally, but rather a political decision made in Harrisburg, thereby dramatically diluting the say of local voters while concentrating even more power in the hands of our Harrisburg legislators and their unelected Board of Education.

What we should be doing instead is changing the way we fund education in the Commonwealth such that we can eliminate property taxes entirely, not hide them with some sort of shell game.

As governor, I would work to reform the underlying problems of education funding.  One method of reducing the cost of education is to privatize the educational system.  That would mean that the government would not run their own schools–often Taj Mahals!–but rather would place children with local private schools instead.

How much of a reduction in cost would that bring?  To come up with hard numbers, I Googled the private schools in my local Abington area to find out what they charged per year.  I saw numbers ranging from $5,000 through about $13,000, with the exclusive schools like Abington Friends topping out at over $30,000.  Leaving out the exclusive schools, I found that the average tuition was around $9,000.  Then I took the latest Abington school district budget and divided it by the number of students, yielding a cost of about $22,000 a child.

The upshot: If we privatized the schools, we could cut property taxes in half overnight. HB 76 cannot claim to do that.

To complete the removal of the remainder of existing property taxes, I would start by suggesting the decriminalization of cannabis.  Currently, there is an infinite tax on cannabis: if you’re caught with it, you can lose your car, your house, and all your life’s savings.  But if we decriminalized it, kept the street price the same, and earmarked the difference between the cost of manufacture and the street price as a new tax–essentially a dramatic reduction from the infinite tax we have today–experience from other states shows we can eliminate much of the other half of the property tax.

To make up the rest of the education spending, I would use the line-item veto aggressively to eliminate pork barrel spending across the board, such as the annual $400 million spent to support horse racing, $20 million to pay for Democratic- and Republican-only events, tens of millions in pork barrel economic development programs, millions spent on the communistic Milk Marketing Board, and hundreds of millions spent on duplicative programs across multiple agencies, among other special interest spending.

To sum up: I vehemently oppose the property tax.  While HB 76 has laudable ends, it means leave much to be desired.  There are much better ways to eliminate one of the most hated taxes without concentrating even more power in Harrisburg.