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Pennsylvania House Okays Freeze On Court-Ordered Reassessments

It's now up to the the state Senate whether there's a temporary halt to court-ordered property reassessments in Pennsylvania.

The state House has approved HB 2137, which imposes a moratorium until December 31, 2013. The General Assembly would then have until that date the opportunity to enact property tax reform legislation.

State Representative Matt Smith (D-Allegheny), a co-sponsor of the measure, says he has received many emails and phone calls from residents who are afraid they will be forced from their homes due to the spike in their property taxes based on a "flawed assessment process."

HB 2137 is identical to HB 1696, which easily passed in June of 2011, but was amended in the Senate to apply only to Washington County.

But Governor Tom Corbett vetoed HB 1696 after being advised that it was unconstitutional, because it applied only to Washington County. Smith agreed with the governor's decision.

"You've got to treat all 67 counties the same, and it's not fair to carve out any exceptions for one to the exclusion of another or, on the other side, to penalize one county, like Allegheny is being penalized, by forcing us to undergo a costly reassessment that is going to put us into a less competitive position in terms of economic development relative to the counties surrounding us," Smith said.

Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick ordered a reassessment of all properties in Allegheny County with the new values to be included when the 2013 tax bills are mailed. 59,648 Allegheny County residents have filed formal appeals of the new property evaluations.