On Aug. 30, 2021, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee conceded to my request to hold a public hearing on the property tax elimination efforts that have been going on for decades for others and for over four years for me personally.

The hearing was held at the Lebanon Expo Center. It was my understanding that this was the first policy hearing in Lebanon County for quite some time. The topic was so enthusiastically received that it was attended by the largest delegation of House members of any policy committee in recent memory.

In all the work that we had done over the years, I had decided in my second term to take a different approach to the property tax problem and meet with the opponents of property tax elimination rather than just supporters to see if a solution could be crafted.

With those meetings we crafted House Bill 13 as a draft only in August 2019 to get rid of school property taxes entirely. The bill included a myriad of tax changes, but the most controversial part of the bill called for a tax on non-Social Security retirement income. Seniors would, however, have saved over $2 billion annually in school property taxes under my bill. For example, most seniors at Londonderry Village, Traditions of Hershey, and our other county retirement communities would have benefitted significantly.

Because of the difficulty encountered in the Legislature and executive branches by a prior property tax work group attempting achieve consensus on the issue and with the controversy over my bill, I decided to table House Bill 13 in late 2019.

Then in 2021, the House Republican Policy chairman asked me if I would like to take one final try at elimination. I jumped at the opportunity, but I cautioned everyone that time was no longer on our side.

In putting the agenda together, I thought it useful to call on supporters, naysayers and analysts for input. I was willing to risk that no decision would be possible as a result of the hearing.

We invited the following to testify in addition to myself:

  •   Matt Knittel, director, Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO).
  •   John Callahan, chief advocacy officer, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  •   Dr. Andrew Armagost, director of advocacy and analytics, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials
  •   William Johnston-Walsh, director, Pennsylvania AARP
  •   Ron Boltz, president, Pennsylvania Liberty Alliance
  •   Jim Rodkey, founder, Pennsylvania Property Rights Association

The testimony was extremely well received. It was interesting to note that Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) indicated that House Bill 13 would have raised sufficient revenue to eliminate property taxes and would have significantly reduced the tax burden on the majority of senior citizens.

After the conflicting perspectives were presented at the hearing, I was extraordinarily pleased that many groups that had opposed property tax elimination previously were now willing to discuss possible solutions.

I remain very skeptical because I have found over the years that most Pennsylvanians favor property tax elimination if it means they would save significantly and someone else would pay for it. I believe that eliminating the school property tax is critical to the economic survival of the Commonwealth and its citizens!

In my 40-plus years as a certified public accountant and expert in helping organizations avoid bankruptcy, I can think of no more complicated problem to the financial survival of the Commonwealth than eliminating all property taxes.

The reason this is so complicated is because our current system of taxation and funding schools is so fundamentally flawed that even minor fixes to peripheral elements of the system may have significant unintended consequences. For instance, with the funding formula, some school districts such as Palmyra receive significantly less of their budget from the state than does Philadelphia school district. The differences in percentage funded is made up by property owners. With the hearings, however, new life has been breathed into the elimination proposals despite significant obstacles.

I cannot emphasize enough how severe the problem is with school property taxes. It is critical that everyone understand that if we do not resolve this problem the probability of surviving the next economic downturn is limited.

If we take decisive action now to reform our tax policies for working families, seniors, businesses and school districts, with the fundamental shift in the elimination of school property taxes we can reverse these negative trends.

In October, our working group met again to discuss the way ahead, and on Feb. 24, 2022, we held a news conference at the state Capitol to announce I had introduced House Bill 13. See details in the documents below:

Independent Fiscal Office Response Letter (5-2022)

Rep. Frank Ryan HB 13 roundtable (2-24-22)

House Bill 13 of 2022

HB 13 Bill Reference Sheet (2-28-22)

Co-Sponsorship Memo HB 13 (2-3-22)

Ryan Introduces HB 13 To Eliminate Property Taxes in Pa.

Response from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) regarding property taxes.

House GOP Policy Committee - Property Tax Reform