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Our opinion: Tax relief must not penalize hard work

Among measures the Associated Press reported that state lawmakers are considering for voter referendum and constitutional amendment is a perennial topic in Pennsylvania politics — property taxes levied by school districts.

A number of proposals have been considered over the years, going back at least four decades. The challenge remains — how do school districts fund schools without property tax revenues?

We believe the state should certainly consider ways to reduce the burden on homeowners. We believe the state has several options that are worth considering.

We also believe, more strongly, that the state has one option it should never consider.

The state could increase the sales tax, reduce the list of items and services exempted from the sales tax and use the revenues to increase the state government’s portion of school funding.

It’s an idea that often is part of property tax relief and it’s an idea worth considering.

The state could reduce spending on a myriad of other areas and transfer that money into school districts. This is an idea that unfortunately doesn’t get the focus we feel it should.

The legislature could work to make this increased state funding contingent on consolidation of some school districts, or on shared-services agreements that reduce duplication of administrative functions and reduce costs.

It is likely a combination of these ideas would be necessary to provide homeowners with substantive relief.

The one idea that should be ruled out, however, is any increase to tax rates, by the state or by school districts, on earned income.

If anything, reducing or eliminating taxes on earned income should be as much a priority as reducing property taxes.

Our state should promote a culture that values hard work and encourages Pennsylvanians to pursue careers and to have jobs. Increasing taxes on the employed undermines such a culture and instead punishes hard work. Owning a home is laudable — but not as laudable as working for a living. And our tax code should recognize that.

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