Act 72

Pennsylvanian legislators have developed a plan for reducing school taxes. The alternate
source of revenue would be slot machine profits. In order to take part in this program,
called Act 72, school districts must opt in and lose some property tax revenue.
The deadline for opting in is May 30. For
various reasons, many districts are giving Act 72 a pass
. I don’t blame them.

It’s a pretty moronic idea. Instead of relying on community support, in the form
of property taxes paid by those living within district limits, Governor Rendell
wants state schools to rely on what amounts to a stupidity tax. What a swell idea.
Let’s ride on the backs of people willing to foolishly piss away their hard-earned
money on one-armed bandits. Whata fantastic way to fund education.

It’s a self-defeating venture. Either we’d teach kids to see gambling as the losing
proposition it is, thereby losing future slots slaves, or we’d leave them in ignorance
of the dangers of gambling in the hopes that they’ll squander the fruits of their
state-funded education to feed the system.

Sadly, it is often the case that the people who can least afford to gamble are the
ones who are more likely to do so. Not only does Act 72 not ease the burden on people
in poor districts, it helps the government to take advantage of them. Here’s the
situation in a nutshell.

  • There are great funding disparities between school districts in the state.
  • Poor districts are funded by proprty taxes in poor neighborhoods and rish districts
    are funded by property taxes in rich neighborhoods.
  • There is a poor success rate for people trying to escape poverty through education.
    There is a high drop-out rate and a tendency for those who fall through the system’s
    cracks today to be the tax-payers in the same district later.
  • Raising property taxes in poor districts would be like trying to draw blood from
    a stone.
  • It would be political suicide to suggest that richer districts help out poorer
    ones.
  • Pennsylvania’s solution? Take from the poor what they foolishly are willing to
    part with voluntarily – gambling money.
  • The result? The rich continue to fund and reelect those in power and keep their
    money from touching the unwashed masses while the poor make themselves poorer
    and shoulder more of the educational funding burden.

There is a much better way to fund public education. Put all school taxes into an
account for the whole state. Distribute funds from that account according to need,
not affluence or influence. Unfortunately, no legislator is likely to be bold enough
suggest such a change. Assuming he’d ever get elected, he’d never get reelected.
The affluent want their money helping their kids only. Try to change that and you’ll
be a political pariah. I pray that some day someone in government decides that helping
people better themselves is more important than retaining power.

Comments 5

  1. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Actually the state-wide system of distributing property tax was used in Michigan. That precedent, and the continued unrest over property taxes (such as the lovely 3 mill levy in Wilkinsburg) may help spur people to do the right thing.

    Posted 26 May 2005 at 5:05 pm
  2. EmilyE wrote:

    And one day, when I become an Ohio Supreme Court justice … 😉

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 4:44 pm
  3. Milton Stanley wrote:

    Beautifully said, Eric. Tennessee recently passed a lottery to fund college scholarships. You articulate well the hypocrisy of the whole thing. Peace.

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 3:14 am
  4. EmilyE wrote:

    I agree.

    Ohio has similar problems with school funding. The Canton City School District, which has 11,000 students, has had to cut $15 million from its budget in the past four years. $15 million! And the reason they had to cut so much is because, although Canton voters approved a massive emergency levy (9.5 mill, if I recall correctly), the property values in Canton are going down. A larger and larger percent of the homes’ values are being taken in taxes to support the schools — but the net amount keeps decreasing because the homes are worth less and less.

    It stinks.

    Four times, the Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that funding schools primarily on the basis of local property taxes is unconstitutional. Four times, it has ordered legislators to fix the problem. And four times, the state legislature has ignored the issue — and the Supreme Court has refused to hold them in contempt of court.

    I voted for one judge who was running for Ohio Supreme Court justice this year just because he said he’d hold the entire state legislature in contempt of court if the case came before him again! Some Ohioans are trying to get a referendum on the ballot in November to reform school funding. I doubt it will happen, but we (like Pa.) need something to be done, and soon.

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 4:43 pm
  5. john wrote:

    I hate to admit this eric, but I have to agree with everything you just said.

    Mark it on your calendars folks, it’s a first.

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 3:41 am

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Ales Rarus - $600 Million Slot Revenue: Jackpot or Ripoff? on 18 Apr 2008 at 2:00 pm

    […] taxes are most negatively affected by gambling. In fact, we're back to where we were when Act 72 was introduced in an attempt to fund education without raising property taxes. Gambling is a "desperation tax" on the poor who are hoping against hope to win the […]

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