A tax hike is not a tax hike when ...
... the governor's spokesman says it's not. County real estate levy unbalanced again? Give the VP a mulligan.
Things that make us go hmmmm ...
nGov. Tom Corbett reportedly is getting ready to unveil a plan to raise about $1.9 billion in new revenue to pay for transportation improvements.
But it's not a tax increase. Honest. Really.
That's what Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said about the T-word: "How is he raising taxes? I'm curious how he's raising taxes?"
Well, try this on for size: Administration officials told media outlets earlier this month that the Republican governor -- one of the GOP leaders who signed the no-new-taxes pledge enforced by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform -- may lift the cap on the oil company franchise fee, essentially doubling the tax rate paid by gas stations on the wholesale price of gas.
Americans for Tax Reform says Gov. Corbett would be breaking his promise not to raise taxes if he gets legislative approval for the transportation plan. But the administration insists the "uncapped" fee wouldn't be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices at the pump.
Maybe the oil companies, out of the goodness of their hearts, will swallow the higher rate -- did we mention that this theoretically could raise the per-gallon price by 20 cents?
Or maybe Gov. Corbett should just man up and ask for a higher gas tax, well south of 20 cents a gallon. That might generate more revenue for transportation in the long run, instead of all these machinations and contortions designed to disguise a tax increase from Mr. Norquist's notice.
Because a tax hike by any other name still stinks.
nSpeaking of taxes, a decision by the Lancaster County Commissioners on tax values might be backfiring on school districts and municipalities in the county.
In 2011, the commissioners decided to postpone a comprehensive countywide reassessment of properties until 2017, giving a housing market crushed by the Great Recession time to recover.
But now more property owners are appealing their assessments, and winning reductions. As the Sunday News reported last week, 1,051 assessment appeals have been filed for the 2013 tax year --- 38 percent more than in the previous year -- resulting in assessment reductions of $85.8 million. Nine municipalities and parts of Lancaster city actually have lower total assessment values -- hence smaller tax bases -- than they did in 2012.
As assessed valuation and tax bases go down, millage rates go up.
The housing crash of 2008 hurt the actual market value of homes and businesses across the nation, and those values haven't yet recovered. Property owners appeal because they know their buildings and land aren't worth what they were in, say, 2007.
We have to wonder whether property owners who aren't filing appeals are paying an unfair share of taxes. And we wonder whether a countywide reassessment wouldn't be a fairer way of evening the assessment score.
nSpeaking of scores, we're wondering what Vice President Joe Biden shot on the golf course on Oct. 2, 2006.
If you missed the news, the vice president claimed last week that he actually heard the gunfire on the day that Charles Carl Roberts IV took 10 Amish schoolgirls hostage and shot all of them, killing five -- while Mr. Biden was playing golf.
The problem, of course, is that the closest golf course to the Nickel Mines schoolhouse where the massacre took place is six miles away. Skeptics doubt that Vice President Biden could have heard the gunshots (and the shootings happened inside the school) if he was that far away.
Those remarks seem like another case of foot-in-mouth disease for the gaffe-prone vice president -- who probably wishes he could take a mulligan.n