(The Center Square) — Questions arose this week over how the state will cover bigger tax rebates for low-income homeowners and renters without siphoning money out of broader relief programs.
House Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, said he believes the administration’s plan would redirect $250 million from the property tax relief fund to cover the cost of the rebate expansion — an approach he finds unjust.
“One of our concerns was eating up dollars from property taxpayers to begin with — money that goes to them — and then giving it to a few,” he said. “But literally Josh Shapiro could have given people a billion dollars in property tax relief this year, but instead didn’t.”
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The fund, first created in 2006, uses gaming revenue to reduce property taxes for homeowners regardless of income level. The average annual household benefit in 2022 was $290, according to the Office of the Budget.
Last month, Acting Budget Secretary Khalid Mumin certified $864.4 million for property tax relief, leaving $250 million behind. Grove said he doesn’t know why the full balance wasn’t certified, but speculated that the remaining money will pay for the rebates in the years ahead.
“It looks like, from the data, they did it to create room to do the expansion,” he said. “And again, that was our fear. Are you taking money from homeowners to do this expansion? The way it looks and the way that increases in the out years — yes, that’s the answer.”
The property tax/rent rebate program — funded by lottery revenues — has doled out $7.6 billion to qualifying homeowners and renters since its inception in 1971. It’s been nearly two decades, however, since the income caps and rebate amounts have been updated — unlike other public assistance programs. The stagnation disqualifies thousands of residents, Shapiro argues, and should be corrected.
“We can’t wait another year,” the governor said during a visit to Erie West Senior Center. “It’s been seventeen years since we’ve updated this, seventeen years since we’ve looked our seniors in the eye and said, ‘What do you need to get by?'”
We look forward to working with him on a property tax rebate program, but not what he introduced, because you can’t financially do both — and I think we should be giving it to everybody.
Manuel Bonder, the governor’s spokesman, told The Center Square that the administration’s plan offers a “lifeline” to seniors and other residents living on fixed incomes who are most impacted by inflation and rising costs.
“Governor Shapiro is focused on bringing Republicans and Democrats together to deliver for all Pennsylvanians — not engaging in the political skullduggery that too often stands in the way of solving problems,” Bonder said.
According to the Department of Aging, the rebate program helps 570,000 seniors afford their homes each year. Shapiro wants to increase the maximum rebate from $650 to $1,000, and raise the income cap to $45,000 — to be adjusted annually based on inflation.
The administration estimates that many participants’ rebates would nearly double, while an additional 175,000 residents would find themselves eligible for the first time.
Grove said House Republicans want to help senior homeowners too, but “literally cannot afford” to do it the governor’s way.
“We get his arguments — it has been a depreciating amount,” he said. “We look forward to working with him on a property tax rebate program, but not what he introduced, because you can’t financially do both — and I think we should be giving it to everybody.”
This piece was originally published in The Center Square. Read the original article here.
Christen joins The Center Square as its Pennsylvania News Editor and brings with her more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues from all angles. She’s a Pennsylvania State University alumna and has been published in the The Washington Examiner, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, RealClear and Broad + Liberty, among others.