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Committee Chair: David E. Robbins, Esq.
Committee Members: Judge James G. Colins
  Vincent C. DeLiberato, Jr., Esq.
  Joel Fishman, Ph.D.
  Keith Mooney, Esq.
  David E. Robbins, Esq.

The Task of the Taxation and Uniformity Clause Committee

Article VIII
Uniformity of Taxation

Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that:

All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's interpretation of this provision bans the imposition or adoption of a graduated income tax within the Commonwealth. Although many other state constitutions bear identical or analogous language, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the only state high court to declare that this verbiage prohibits the legislature from enacting a graduated income tax.

Further, under the present mechanism, the operational costs of local school districts are funded almost entirely by local real estate taxes. This fiscal arrangement creates an extraordinary real estate tax burden for residents in many school districts. Additional financial pressure has been created by the recent downturn in the real estate market and the general economic malaise.

While Section 2.(a) allows the General Assembly to exempt various "institutions of purely public charity" (as well as places of regularly stated religious worship) from real property taxation, arguably it does not allow the General Assembly to impose differential rates of taxes upon various classes of real property held for "uses of purely public charity." Municipal entities, therefore, lack the power to impose lower real estate tax rates upon properties held by public charities. Large tracts of prime real estate, in municipalities escape taxation, thereby increasing the real estate tax burden on property owned by both private citizens and for-profit commercial entities.

The Subcommittee dealing with the Uniformity Clause and Taxation seeks both written and oral submissions from persons or parties wishing to share knowledge and insights which could lead to a more reasonable and equitable system of taxation within the Commonwealth.

Written Submissions

Written submissions to the Taxation and Uniformity Clause Committee are welcomed. The Committee will gather as many written submissions as possible, and will carefully study and weigh all that are submitted as part of the process of examining the taxation process and the Uniformity Clause in the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Submission Process

The Taxation and the Uniformity Clause Committee ("Committee") of the Constitutional Review Commission is privileged to accept and consider submissions relevant to our inquiry from individuals or representative(s) of groups or other entities. In order to maximize the exposure of submissions, we request that such submissions be provided at least two weeks before the public hearing at which the individual or representative wishes to speak. This will allow us to consider posting the submission on our website and offer the Committee an opportunity to review the written submission fully before the hearing.

At the same time, we recognize the importance of encouraging participation. Therefore, we will schedule time for participants that provide a synopsis of their testimony in lieu of a prior formal filing (at least two weeks before the hearing date) provided the synopsis shows their proposed testimony will provide meaningful input to the Committee's deliberations. Further, such presenters must agree to provide the Committee with a written copy of their presentation materials and supporting documents at the time of the hearing. Such materials may thereafter be posted on the Committee's website.

All materials submitted may be used by the Committee and the CRC and constitutes permission by the submitting party for such to use without compensation.

Oral Statements

Applications to present testimony at the Taxation and Uniformity Clause committee hearings must be submitted prior to the hearings. If you wish to present your views in person at our Taxation and Uniformity Clause Committee public hearings, please complete an Application to Appear form and transmit it, together with your written statement and any exhibits, by U.S. postal service and, if possible, by email to the CRC addresses below, so that it will be received by the due date listed in the schedule of meetings. The Application to Appear form can be downloaded from this CRC Taxation and Uniformity Clause web page. Applications must be accompanied by a written submission covering the nature and scope of the testimony to be presented. Appearances to testify will be scheduled solely at the discretion of the Committee.

Public Hearings

May 5, 2011 - Pennsylvania Bar Institute, the Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square East, 10th Floor, Suite 1010, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

May 20, 2011 - State Capitol Complex, room 8-E-B, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

June 3, 2011 - Hermitage Municipal Building, Hermitage, Pennsylvania.

To contact the Taxation and Uniformity Clause Committee, please send an email to crcinfo@pabar.org.

Send Applications to Appear and written statements to:

Lindsay A. Still
Pennsylvania Bar Association
100 South Street
P.O. Box 186
Harrisburg, PA 17108

Application to Appear


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