All voters across the state, regardless of party affiliation, are eligible to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment below regarding property tax exclusion. Only voters in Philadelphia may vote on the city bond question listed below.

HOMESTEAD PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT EXCLUSION (statewide) - PASSED

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?

This measure—the Homestead Exclusion Amendment—would change Section 2(b)(vi) of Article VIII of the state constitution to enable the state legislature to pass a law allowing local school boards, municipalities and counties to exclude the entire assessed value of each primary residence (homestead or farmstead) in their jurisdictions from taxation if they chose to do so.

This could significantly reduce—and in some cases eliminate--- residential property taxes in those jurisdictions. Local taxing bodies have been able to exclude up to 50 percent of the median assessed valuation of all properties in their jurisdictions since 1997, but few have done so.

If approved by the voters, enabling legislation would have to pass the General Assembly and be signed by the governor before the Homestead Exclusion Act could go into effect, and local jurisdictions proposing it would have to approve it as well.

Of course, jurisdictions choosing to take advantage of the Homestead Exclusion Amendment would have to replace all or part of the funds collected in property taxes with other taxes (on income and/or sales, for instance). This proposed constitutional amendment does not address this issue.

The measure’s primary sponsor, Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks County) first proposed it in 2012, but it didn’t pass the legislature for the first time until the 2015-16 session. It finally crossed the finish line in June with a unanimous House vote and by 46-2 in the Senate. In 2015, Maloney said of his proposal: “There is a need to fund the core functions of government – roads, schools, public safety – but I do not believe that a tax that would take a person’s home after working their whole life to pay for it is a ‘core’ function of government – in fact, it is immoral.”

But Republicans and Democrats questioned by the Reading Eagle and Harrisburg’s Penn Live wonder how the money raised by property taxes might be replaced, as do a number of Montgomery County school-board officials and the editorial board of Montgomery County’s Intelligencer.

In addition, The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News opposes the amendment, citing deceptively simple wording that fails to mention a number of obligations the measure wouldn’t address, and a potential loss of local control over school spending and taxes. The Reading Eagle supported the proposal, but guardedly, in a July editorial: “Voters should make sure they understand what it is, and what it is not.

Indeed, this proposed amendment is not to be confused with Senate Bill 76, which would simply do away with local property taxes and replace them with a higher statewide income tax and an increase in the number of items covered under the state sales tax. The bipartisan measure was reintroduced in the legislature in June after having failed in 2015.

For more, read the legally-required "Plain English Statement" from the Office of Attorney General and summary from Ballotpedia.

The Committee of Seventy does not have a position on this proposed amendment.

CITY BOND QUESTION (Philadelphia Only) - PASSED

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS ($172,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development? 

This ballot question will determine whether Philadelphia will increase its indebtedness by $172,000,000 in order to fund municipal capital initiatives. 

“Capital” expenditures, generally, are those that will result in something of value with a useful life to the City of more than five years, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, property or streets.

Money borrowed through the bond issue will be spent by the city---if the measure is approved by voters---for five purposes identified in a City Council bill (Bill No. 170623) that passed in September. Here’s how it’s apportioned:

Transit: $ 4,767,309
Streets and Sanitation: $ 23,997,918
Municipal Buildings: $ 95,666,840
Parks, Recreation and Museums: $ 32,325,872
Economic and Community Development: $ 15,242,061 

For questions about Seventy's 2017 Election Guide, please contact bettergov@seventy.org.