Op-Ed: Election Day is a Key Moment for Property Tax Reform


This November, you, the voters will have an opportunity to change the Pennsylvania Constitution and provide more opportunity for property tax relief. Voters will ultimately decide whether Pennsylvania’s property tax homestead exemption should be increased from 50 percent to 100 percent.

The 50 percent limit on homestead exemptions has been in place since 1997, when Pennsylvanians approved a constitutional amendment that capped a homeowner’s property tax reduction to half the median assessed value of all “homesteads,” or primary residences, in the jurisdiction. This amendment proposes to increase that property tax exemption to 100 percent. The question will appear on the November ballot where voters will approve or disapprove the proposed change.

There has been great interest surrounding this ballot question. In my time as your Senator no issue has garnered more interest than the local school property tax. After my town hall meetings earlier this year it was clear that the proposed constitutional amendment has caused confusion.

This proposed amendment is not the same as Senate Bill 76 and will not eliminate school property taxes for all Pennsylvanians. I remain a cosponsor and staunch supporter of SB 76.

In 2015 I proudly voted in support of instituting SB76. Unfortunately the vote was tied in the Senate and Governor Wolf’s opposition to property tax elimination meant that the Lieutenant Governor voted to kill it.

SB 76 focuses solely on school property taxes while this amendment applies to property taxes imposed by counties, municipalities and school districts. Further, the proposed constitutional amendment does not require any of these taxing authorities to exclude 100 percent of the assessed value of the homestead – it simply allows for the option.

Because it is not a requirement, some have labeled this constitutional amendment as a “do nothing” proposal that should be defeated. While I respect that opinion, I caution against this thought.

It makes little sense to oppose this option. This amendment provides the flexibility to taxing bodies to provide the most property tax relief that they can.

I fear if the voters of Pennsylvania vote down this proposal, those who have thus far resisted property tax elimination like Governor Wolf and those who favor the educational status quo will point to this vote as further evidence that property taxes are not a real problem for the majority of Pennsylvanians and would deliver another blow to the property tax elimination efforts.

As a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 76, my support for that effort will continue. Should this constitutional amendment be voted down, I believe it will be harder to achieve our goal of school property tax elimination.

On the flip-side, the passage of this constitutional amendment shows a desire for property tax reform and a momentum that cannot be denied.

As a homeowner and taxpayer who shares in the frustration of seemingly ever-increasing property taxes, I intend to vote in support of this amendment. I encourage you to visit SenatorStefano.com for more information on this and other state issues.

While the constitutional amendment is not the final answer, it is an important part of the path to get to my goal of property tax elimination. I believe strongly that no tax should have the power to leave you homeless. If you do as well, I encourage you to give this constitutional amendment on your November 7th ballot serious consideration.

Senator Pat Stefano represents all of Fayette, Somerset and parts of Westmoreland Counties.