Shifting away from property taxes not state budget cure-all

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are high. That’s a fact So the prospect of eliminating them is tempting to property owners.

But local and state governments have to get revenue from somewhere to pay for education, highways, welfare, social services and everything else under the umbrella of government services.

And the numbers don’t work well enough to eliminate the property tax in favor of increased earned income taxes, according to local lawmakers who addressed a Lycoming County Conservation District breakfast last week. In fact, state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, a Loyalsock Township Republican, said such a property tax shift would be dangerous to many businesses and too favorable to wealthier, suburban communities.

With state government looking at a $1 billion deficit, state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican, would like to see a consumptive use tax for businesses that pull water out of bodies of water and don’t pay for it.

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, a Williamsport Democrat, renewed his calls for a severance tax on gas companies.

Yaw expressed cynicism for that idea, commenting the end result might be dumping severance tax revenues into the state’s general fund.

We share his concern for that idea. As it stands now, there are stories every week about the direct local benefit coming from the gas impact fee distribution on the county level. We are very concerned that won’t happen should the funds go through the general fund.

Tax shifting is always a trendy idea when the state is showing budgetary holes, but it is rarely the solution to the problem. The solution is more pragmatic public spending. That always has been the solution and always will be the solution.