In This Update:
DiSanto and Stambaugh Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate School Property Taxes
Representative Perry Stambaugh (Perry/Cumberland) and I introduced a proposal this week that would allow Pennsylvania residents to vote directly on the elimination of school property taxes through an amendment to the state constitution.
Previous tax relief measures such as school property tax referendums and casino gaming have fallen short of expectations and have done little to ease the burden of Pennsylvania homeowners—especially our seniors living on fixed-incomes.
In 2017, Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment expanding the homestead exclusion to 100 percent of a home’s assessed value, yet four more years have passed with no meaningful reforms.
It’s past time to allow the people of Pennsylvania to directly decide the future of school property tax elimination. Our proposal outright prohibits school districts from levying property taxes and ensures the powerful and entrenched special interests opposing reform would no longer be able to block needed action.
These constitutional amendments, Senate Bill 424 and House Bill 927, would task the General Assembly with replacing property tax revenues with a combination of state and local sales and income taxes. The proposal would also ensure local school districts receive the same amount of revenue as the year prior to enactment so school needs are met. The bills must pass the Senate and House in two consecutive sessions to be placed in the ballot.
COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings
After weeks of dedicated advocacy from lawmakers, employers and employees, Governor Wolf finally announced that several restrictions on businesses and gatherings would be relaxed effective April 4. Some of the changes include:
In addition, occupancy limits will be increased to 25 percent for indoor venues and 50 percent for outdoor venues, regardless of size.
Although this is positive news for industries impacted by Governor Wolf’s unilateral orders and restrictions, the fact that these restrictions are still in place today speaks to the dangers of allowing one branch of government to control all the power during an extended emergency declaration. Lawmakers approved potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would give the people a stronger voice in emergency response through their elected officials. An explanation of the amendments – and how Governor Wolf is working to sabotage them – is available in this editorial.
Budget Hearings Continue with Discussion on Education
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s series of hearings on Governor Wolf’s budget proposal continued this week with a discussion regarding the future of education in Pennsylvania with the Department of Education and representatives from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Some of the topics of discussion included the importance of returning students to in-person instruction safely, the need for schools to use federal stimulus funding prudently, and redesigning PASSHE to provide a quality education to students at an affordable price. Key Points
Budget hearings will continue Monday, March 21, with the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole at 10 a.m. and the Department of Community and Economic Development at 2 p.m. The hearings will be streamed live at www.PASenateGOP.com.
Senate Approves Bill to Open Career Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery
Individuals in recovery for substance use disorders could stand a better chance of breaking the cycle of addiction by maintaining meaningful employment under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorders with high-priority occupations.
The pilot program would allow state agencies to work with local workforce development boards, treatment and recovery providers and employers to find job training and employment opportunities for individuals in recovery.
Senate Continues Bipartisan Review of Election Issues Next Week
The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform will continue its comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. The hearing will include testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of State, local election officials and county officials to gather state and local insight on the administration of the election.
The committee held its first meeting on Monday to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states. State residents are encouraged to submit their thoughts and comments through the online form.
Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended
The federal government recently extended all Unemployment Compensation programs, including the additional $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, through September 6. The maximum number of weeks of eligibility for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was also extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks, and the maximum number of weeks of eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is extended from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.
In addition, up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits for an individual (or $20,400 for a couple, if both members received unemployment benefits) will not be considered federal taxable income in 2020, assuming the individual or couple earned less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income for the year.
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21
March 21 is designated as World Down Syndrome Day by numerous states and countries in recognition of the incredible achievements of the individuals living with this condition. Each person with Down syndrome has different talents, abilities and needs – and that makes every person living with this condition special and unique.
More information on World Down Syndrome Day is available here.
Pennsylvania Extends Personal Income Tax Filing Deadline To May 17, 2021
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has announced the deadline for taxpayers to file their 2020 Pennsylvania personal income tax returns and make final 2020 income tax payments is extended to May 17, 2021, giving taxpayers an additional month to file from the original deadline of April 15. The Internal Revenue Service also announced earlier this week it would extend the federal income tax filing deadline to May 17, 2021.
For more information or to file Pennsylvania taxes online, visit https://www.revenue.pa.gov.