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State representative pitches tax plan at 2005 Legislative Forum

November 05, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Samuel E. Rohrer, a Republican state representative from Berks County, Pa., has been traveling across the state in recent years hawking his plan for an expanded state sales tax to pay for public education in the Keystone State.

Rohrer was the featured speaker Friday at the 2005 Legislative Forum, "Local Tax Reform," sponsored by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Committee.

Local state representatives Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin; Mark K. Keller, R-Franklin/Perry; and Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland attended the session.

A key element in Rohrer's plan is the statewide elimination of school property taxes. The House is expected to vote on the plan Nov. 21, but it appears to have a slim chance of passing. Gov. Ed Rendell opposes Rohrer's plan in favor of paying for education with money raised from slot machines through Act 72.

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Rohrer's plan is one of several circulating in the legislature, Fleagle said.

The plan calls for an expansion of the state's 6 percent sales tax. Mostly based on consumer goods, the plan calls for greatly expanded taxes on services, along with a corresponding decrease to 5 percent.

"School property taxes have become destructive," Rohrer said. Senior citizens are being forced out of their homes because of it, family farms are being lost and renters are unable to become first-time home buyers, he said.

"The current school funding mechanism is about to implode," Rohrer said. "School spending is unrestrained."

Rohrer's plan, he said, is simple: "Eliminate school property taxes on residences and businesses."

Rohrer's plan also calls for the elimination of the earned income and nuisance taxes.

"Sufficient revenues can be generated by broadening the sales tax base to offset revenues lost from the tax eliminations," he said.

Those that would be exempt from the sales tax would include hospitals, doctors and dentists, prescription drugs, charitable organizations, gasoline and advertising.

Rohrer had statistics that showed that 19 percent of the income spent on housing goes to school taxes in Pennsylvania.

His proposal would have no effect on property taxes paid to county and local governments.

"People can talk about (Rohrer's) plan all they want," Fleagle said after the session. "The governor is putting all of his cookies in the revision of Act 72."

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