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I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to comment on the September 20 letter by Dr. Calvin Clements entitled, “Taxing retirement income is still a bad plan”, in which he writes about Representative Frank Ryan’s so-called “school property tax elimination” plan. Dr. Clements and I are of different political parties, but we agree completely on Ryan’s disastrous proposal.

Ryan’s plan purports to give Pennsylvanians a big break from school property taxes and looks fairly good on the surface. However, the devil is in the details. Although information is scarce now and Ryan’s office is not answering its email, it appears that this year’s bill will be almost identical to the 2019 version, except for minor admin changes. It doesn’t take much of an analysis to quickly determine that the average Pennsylvania homeowner, especially those living off their retirement income, would be worse off under Ryan’s proposal than under the current system. In fact, it appears that the only people who would be better off are those who are living in expensive homes in areas with high property tax rates.

Ryan’s proposal is more of a tax bill than a tax-elimination bill. It slaps a new nearly 5% tax on retirement income in addition to raising both sales and income taxes. Part of these new taxes are supposed to go to local school districts, and there is no guarantee that these new taxes will not be raised in the future. In other words, friends, future increases will not be called “property tax increases.” They will be increases in the local income taxes when the legislature raises the 1.85% ceiling, and the almost 5% tax on retirement will NEVER go away. If any of you reading this think that these new replacement taxes will stay the same when our existing property taxes are going up each year, I will make you a great deal on this talking dog that I have. 

It is also interesting that the group formerly dedicated to eliminating the school property tax, the “Pennsylvania Taxpayer’s Cyber Coalition,” is now under new management, and has become a full-time shill for Frank Ryan’s proposal, even to the point of silencing any opposition to it on their social media sites. 

Let’s be clear, Representative Ryan’s bill, whether it is called HB13 or hidden under a new moniker, does not help anyone, and is a disaster for senior citizens. It is an attempt to pry the lid off another pot of revenue for the tax and spend Harrisburg crowd: retirement benefits. It would also accelerate the pace of population outflow by taking away one of the major incentives for living here in the first place. Finally, any proposal to hit retirees with a new tax when inflation is ravaging their income is nothing short of irresponsible.

Dwight Weidman is a Chambersburg resident and former Franklin County GOP chairman.

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