by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Penna. (PRCN, 6 March 2006) -- A property tax plan sketched out by Lynn Swann over the weekend is illegal and unconstitutional, according to an expert on tax policy.
Swann – the Republican challenging Democratic Governor Ed Rendell – unveiled his proposal during a speech to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
He said he wants to base tax rates on the last sale price of a home, meaning long-time homeowners would pay less than recent movers.
But Penn State economist Tim Kelsey says this would require amending the state constitution.
"Under Pennsylvania’s constitution," Kelsey says, "there’s a uniformity clause that requires objects that are being taxed to be treated uniformly – which is why here in Pennsylvania, when we re-assess, we re-assess all properties at the same time.
"If you instead base the value of taxation on the value when the property is sold, the basis for taxation will vary dramatically within any one district."
A spokeswoman for Swann’s campaign said more specifics on the plan will be unveiled in the coming weeks.