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Lawmaker brings his tax reform mission here

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001


KITTANNING TWP. - State Sen. James Rhoades (R-29) is a man on a mission.

Last night, Rhoades, a senator from Schuykill County, spoke to some 50 citizens at Kittanning Township Elementary School about a hot button issue, tax reform.

'I'm on a mission right now, and the mission is to change the way we fund schools,' he said.

Rhoades, who came to Armstrong County at the invitation of local Sen. Don White (R-41), has been traveling across the state seeking support for his tax reform proposal which would raise state income tax in favor of lower property taxes.

The senator, who is the chairman of the education committee in the state Senate, outlined his proposal to drastically reduce property taxes in favor of a two percent raise in the state income tax from 2.8 to 4.8 percent.

'The solution is not to raise taxes, but to change the way Pennsylvanians pay for education,' Rhoades said.

'I really want to do this in the worst way,' he said. 'I believe I'm doing the right thing.'

Rhoades presented a four-tier system which drastically lowers property taxes across the state by an average of 67 percent.

Under Rhoades formula, which uses complex calculations based on costs per pupil across the state, property taxes would be reduced by 61 percent in the Armstrong School District.

Most of the crowd, however, came out in support of raising state sales tax.

'There has to be a more fair way to do this,' said Ruby Spencer, one of the audience members. 'The sales tax seems the fairest.'


Rhoades did not dismiss the idea that tax reform may yet come from a sales tax, he said the sales tax is regressive, meaning that people who cannot afford the tax will still have to pay it.

'The property tax should go in its entirety,' said Leechburg resident Tony DeBernardi, adding that sales tax was 'undoubtedly the fairest.'

'(The tax reform debate) can be like driving through mud,' Rhoades said, but encouraged the audience to continue offering opinions and suggestions.

Rhoades said he was happy with the response from the audience and the input he received from Armstrong County citizens.

'We have more people that want to make this change than we ever did before,' he told the audience. 'I may not have all your answers, but I think we're going to try to find the answers.'

White was also pleased with the meeting.

'There is an undercurrent across the state of Pennsylvania for tax reform,' he said. 'Let's win some battles.'

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