"Property taxes are killing the state's economy and its residents."
No statement David Baldinger made Friday night could be stronger than that.
Speaking before the Lehigh Valley Tea Party at the October monthly meeting at the Charles Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township, the administrator with the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition discussed the proposed elimination of property taxes.
Baldinger, who considers himself the foremost state expert on property taxes, pulled out a Reading Eagle newspaper from August showing 1,086 tax sales just for Berks County alone.
"If you multiply that by the 67 counties in the state, that's insane," he said, adding that he's served as an advocate of the proposal since 2004.
Baldinger told the audience of about 100 people that their property taxes could go up by 30 percent over the next few years due to rising school costs, which he said could reach $10 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade education in the next decade.
"It's an unfair system that needs to be abolished," he said. "We are treating our homes, the places where we live, like they are producing income for us."
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations School Property Tax Plan would replace all school district property taxes as well as school Earned Income Taxes and others such as the per capita tax. The plan wipes out the taxing ability of local school boards.
It expands the sales tax base to include more goods and services that aren't currently taxed. Those include lawn mowing, landscaping, haircuts, sports and theater tickets, dry cleaning, candy and gum and magazines. And it does not raise the sales tax rate above the current 6 percent.
The plan increases the personal income tax by .50 percent to 3.57 percent, basically a swap for the EIT.
"We're sick of hearing the phrase 'property tax relief,'" Baldinger said. "Where's all that money we were supposed to get from the casinos?"
He added that any tax relief plan is doomed to failure if the system isn't restructured and that relief revenue is easily overtaken by rising school costs.
The PCTA cites 10 reasons for replacing school property taxes: Achieve true home ownership, stabilize school funding, help prevent foreclosures, restore plummeting real estate values, boost the sagging house market, attract businesses, generate jobs, create a stimulus, increase personal wealth and stop costly reassessments.
"The legislators say this is a complex issue that isn't easily resolved," Baldinger said. "All they need is the courage and the will to get it done. Almost everyone likes this plan."
The Tea Party endorses reduced government spending,opposition to taxation in varying degrees, reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.
The movement, named after the Boston Tea Party, gained a national foothold in 2009, and had vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as one of its supporters.
While it's not a national party, most are Republicans who have found dissatisfaction with mainstream GOP leaders.
Also during the meeting, the party addressed numerous topics: Announcing a $10 annual membership fee starting in January, lined up a speaker for next month on "UN Agenda 21," elected Eric Neubauer, Christine Bongiorno and Bill Bullman for offices in March 2013, promoted a Nov. 5 education workshop, and touted a charity that supports the troops.