I have followed with interest dialogue within this publication on school property taxes and language regarding tax discipline at the state level. I resonate with some concerns expressed here about continuously rising property taxes. In a context of low wage growth and rapidly rising health care costs, a rise in a tax rate feels like one additional stress on a family budget. However, within this issue and others, I believe we need to pay attention to distortions which make it seem like a spending freeze or tax cut at one level will end up making our lives easier.
Our current health care crisis is an excellent example. At the federal level, we have been resistant to fully funding insurance exchanges with the reasoning that this kind of fiscal discipline will keep taxes low and government lean. Instead, failing to adequately fund and craft a working health care plan has escalated health insurance costs, putting a strain on the budgets of schools and incentivizing industry to replace humans with machines. This is one factor among many at the root of rising property taxes and college tuition expenses.
Our teacher pension crisis in Pennsylvania was created by state government leadership in 2001 that was more interested in looking the other way than raising funds to fix faulty planning and risk-taking. Now that we are in 2017, that mistake has been compounded and state government has shifted the burden to local school boards. I believe state leaders hope we will become mad at local governance for rising property taxes and not place responsibility where the problem started.
In our schools we need a balance of revenue streams (balancing income, property, sales, business, and other taxes) to spread out the responsibility of educating our children. We need to solve problems when they arise by raising revenues that are appropriate to funding collective solutions. Shifting blame and ducking for cover is not an effective way to govern at either the federal or state level. I applaud the work our local school board and school employees have done in a crazy system. I urge us all to pressure our state and federal government to stop procrastinating responsibility on health care and state funding of education and take up the issues that are so important to our children.