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Politics & Government

House Lawmakers Pass Property Tax Relief Bill

A proposal to provide school property tax relief has passed in the state House, but it faces only middling indicators of success in the Senate.

The bill would let school districts opt to reduce or replace property taxes with other levies on earned income and businesses. The measure passed without debate in a legislative body whose members rarely turn down chances for comment.

"They knew they had significant bipartisan support going into yesterday's debate and today's debate," said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, brushing off the lack of back-and-forth. "I think many members on both sides of the aisle were ready to give an affirmative vote."

The bill heads to the Senate, now, where leaders have been circumspect about their appetite for school property tax reform. The chamber's GOP caucus spokesman has said his caucus is chiefly interested in freezing property taxes for seniors.

But Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) said he's optimistic about the bill's chances.

"The reality is, the House has always led on this issue. We think it's important, we hear constituents," said Benninghoff. "We're trying to get across the goal line bills we think can pass, and garnish 102 votes here, and now they only need to get a quarter of those in the Senate. Seems like a pretty easy equation to me." (The measure would require 26 votes to pass in the 50-member Senate.)

The bill's easy passage in the House (the final vote was 149-46) comes on the heels of a defeated amendment that would have gutted the bill and replaced it with language to completely eliminate school property taxes.

That approach has been proposed in the Senate and shows 17 co-sponsors.