EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 14, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    House-Senate Conference Committee

  • Meeting twice on Thursday, the House-Senate Property Tax Relief Conference Committee rejected a plan to increase the state sales tax to fund tax relief for senior citizens. Committee members voted down the proposal 4-2, with Rep. Mike Veon joining the Committee's three Senators in opposing the plan offered by Republican Representative David Steil. Steil sought to temporarily increase the state sales tax by 0.3% until June 30, 2009, which would then have been replaced by expected gaming revenue. The money would have been used to fund additional property tax and rent rebates for senior citizens. Steil's amendment focused tax relief on seniors with the highest property taxes and the lowest incomes by reimbursing those with an income of less than $30,000 the difference between their property taxes and 10% of their household income (with a $500 floor and $1,500 ceiling on rebates). Senators opposed the proposal saying it was discriminatory to renters who would experience a sales tax increase with no residual benefit. Rep. Mike Veon said while he supports the concept of using state taxes to fund property tax relief, he voted against the proposal because there is no support for a state tax increase in the Senate and the Committee will not reach a compromise until it faces this reality.

    Anticipating that his sales tax plan would be rejected, Steil asked that the Committee reconvene later that day to discuss alternative ideas he had prepared. Upon reconvening, the Committee announced that its discussion would have to wait until Monday, April 17 at 10:00 a.m. because they were not prepared to discuss new concepts without having data from the Department of Revenue on the financial impact of those ideas.

    At its meeting Thursday, the Committee also considered two amendments offered by Rep. Veon. An amendment was adopted to ensure that school districts that opted-in to Act 72 of 2004 are treated equally as other districts in the Committee's final compromise plan. The Committee rejected an amendment that would have exempted healthcare costs from the proposed back-end referendum on future school tax increases. The Committee previously rejected a similar amendment offered by Veon last week. Veon changed and reintroduced the amendment to require school districts to meet certain conditions to qualify for the exception and to limit the amount of exception. The healthcare amendment won support from House members, but was opposed by Senators, leading to its defeat.

    The Property Tax Conference Committee was formed when the House and Senate could not agree on passage of Special Session House Bill 39. Senators serving on the Committee are: David Brightbill (R), Edwin Erickson (R), and Robert Mellow (D). House members serving on the Committee are: Lynn Herman (R), David Steil (R), and Mike Veon (D). Moving a plan out of Committee for a final yes/no vote by the full House and Senate requires approval from two members of each chamber.

  • House Actions

  • The House Republican Policy Committee held two days of public hearings in Harrisburg on addressing the needs of growing school districts in the state's education funding formula. Representatives from pockets of the state that recently have experienced rapid growth said they are burdened by increasing construction costs, transportation costs and human resource needs. They told Committee members that state support for their districts is not keeping pace with their burgeoning needs, resulting in property tax increases to make up the difference. House Republicans are working to direct additional funding to growing districts in the next state budget. For more information, contact Policy Committee Chairman Mario Civera at (717) 787-3850.

  • All legislation from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including bills cited in this Notebook, can be found at www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm.

    Research and Reports

  • The Association of School Business Officials International released a new publication that outlines almost 200 professional standards and a 28-point Code of Ethics for school business officials. The publication addresses financial resource management, human resource management, facility management and more. Find the "International School Business Management Professional Standards and Code of Ethics" at http://asbointl.org/asbo/files/ccLibraryFiles/FILENAME/000000001176/ASBO-Professional-Standards-2006.pdf.

  • Public Agenda released a new report titled "Meeting the Competition: College and University Presidents, Faculty, and State Legislators View the New Competitive Academic Arena". Access the report at www.publicagenda.org/research/pdfs/meeting_the_competition.pdf.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the following report:

    The Adult Lives of At-Risk Students: The Roles of Attainment and Engagement in High School at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006328.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The Senate is scheduled to return to Session on Tuesday, April 18 and the House is scheduled to return on Monday, April 24. The House-Senate Property Tax Relief Conference Committee meets Monday, April 17. The House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on the status of Act 46 as it relates to community colleges on Wednesday at Westmoreland Community College. EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program meets Friday in Harrisburg. The American Association of Community Colleges holds its annual convention April 22-25 in Long Beach, CA. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

  • Other

  • Democrat Shawn Flaherty narrowly (and unofficially at this writing) defeated Republican Mike Dolan in Tuesday's special election to fill the 30th House District in Allegheny County. Republican Jeff Habay resigned the seat after being convicted of illegally using state office staff to conduct campaign work. Flaherty's win brings the balance of power in the Pennsylvania House to 109 Republicans and 94 Democrats.

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