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House GOP Parries Wolf's Property-Tax Relief Plan

When House Republicans presented their own proposal to cut local property taxes, the sponsoring lawmaker threw down a gauntlet along with it.

Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) said he doubts Gov. Tom Wolf's property-tax relief plan has support within his own party.

"Nobody over there has introduced his plan," said Saylor. "If he thinks his plan's so good, I would love to see a Democrat introduce his plan. And they've had more than, what, two months to do it."

House Democrats say they do stand behind Governor Tom Wolf's property-tax relief package, but that they're still reviewing it "line by line."

Nevertheless, the House GOP's answer to Wolf's proposed changes is setting off a debate over how to address the biggest complaints about high property taxes.

Saylor's plan boasts the support of dozens of House Republicans, including the chamber's majority leader, Dave Reed (R-Indiana). At first blush, it's not so different from the Wolf proposal: It raises sales and personal income taxes to force local school property taxes down.

But Saylor said his proposal would not target tax relief to favor cities and poor areas, an element of Wolf's proposal that prompted criticism.

"It's pitting the cities versus the rest of the state under Wolf's plan," said Saylor. "Mine's fair to everybody."

Saylor said his proposal would include better controls to keep school districts from increasing property taxes again, a claim the Wolf administration disputes. The House GOP bill would keep numerous sales tax exemptions in place (e.g. candy, newspapers, caskets, dry-cleaning) saying they're trying to keep the middle class's overall tax burden low. That said, their proposed sales tax increase (from 6 to 7 percent) is slightly higher than the governor's proposal (from 6 percent to 6.6 percent).

And what of property tax elimination, that elusive goal used like a cudgel to beat the Wolf proposal into the ground for the past month and a half?

"There's no votes for a complete elimination," Saylor said. "Nobody's willing to make those votes."

The governor, meanwhile, is standing by his plan. His office released a written statement pointing out key differences - such as proposed property relief for renters, and funding to bring down Philadelphia's taxes on cigarettes, sales, and wages.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.