On September 24, 2013 citizens from across the state of Pennsylvania will be coming to our Capitol to lobby for support of House Bill and Senate Bill 76 in an effort we have called the Fill-A-Bus-Tour. We will be arriving in Harrisburg at 10 a.m. to spend 2 ½ hours in a lobbying effort to seek a majority support to get this done. We will also be encouraging a push to get this out of committee and on to the floor for a vote. At 1:00 p.m. we will be holding a rally of support on the Capitol steps. Every one of the 92 House Co-sponsors and the 23 Senate Co-sponsors have been invited to participate in this important rally. A similar event was held last year with very little media exposure that drew 800 people out in support of Property Tax Independence. Since then the movement has grown and so has out support. We feel this very important day of citizen lobbying and the rally is important enough to receive media coverage and are writing this letter to you to encourage you to do so.
The effort is being coordinated with and through the PCTA (Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations) which consists of 81 members groups across the state of Pennsylvania that reflects true grassroots initiative. We are a fully volunteer and self-funded coalition of citizens who are determined to see true Property Tax Independence through HB 76 and SB 76. This is a fully non-partisan effort with absolutely no PAC or any other kind of corporate support or funding.
There are several reason we believe this is an important media story. (1) The impact of the property tax and its disproportional toll on the low-income working families; (2) The powerful corporate and PSEA opposition that oppose this effort while controlling many of our legislators through PACS and Campaign Funding; (3) the cross political representation and make-up of our organization (Tea Party, Occupy, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian-all working together for the same goal); (4) In spite of 92 sponsors in the House and 23 in the Senate with broad and growing support of citizens the leadership in Harrisburg has done everything they can to stop this effort. Chairman of the finance Committee Kerry Benninghoff has demanded things of this legislation (such as majority sponsors) before moving this bill out of committee. This sort of action is unprecedented. That a handful of legislators in Harrisburg can stop a piece of legislation with this much support simply because of the power of their position should be an affront to all Pennsylvanians.
This effort has received minimal media attention but there is a real story to tell here; the story of this legislation is one of real citizen activism. Individuals took it upon themselves to publish their own flyers and handouts and went out into their community to talk to family, friends and neighbors. Small coalitions began forming around the state in support of the legislation and those coalitions grew. Using their own money, time and resources they held town meetings, made yard signs and struggled to draw more attention to the effort. In some areas of the state it became a critic and central issue in elections last year. It will again next year.
Each of the buses coming to this rally have been chartered by individuals who were willing to gamble on filling the bus in order to pay the expense of chartering that bus. Others are arranging for car and van caravans to get us to Harrisburg.
This is not merely the story of a fight for Property Tax Independence. This is a human interest story where citizens of this state have come together to fight for a piece of legislation without the support of a statewide or national organization and in the process formed their own citizen’s coalition. It is a story of local activism
that has spread in a unifying effort that has defied all political thinking about the ways things are supposed to happen.
In a recent newspaper article out of Norristown we saw the spin of the tragedy of tax seized properties as the local tax collector stated “Even after hundreds of property owners have made payment, many good investment opportunities remain in every corner of the county." Is this how we have come to view the tragedy of being taxed out of our property….as a good business opportunity to benefit those that have built upon the misfortune of those who don’t. Those who lost their homes because they can no longer pay their taxes will see those homes sold for little more than back taxes and the amount necessary to cover the fines and fees. They lose all their own capital investment in their property without just compensation and we still somehow think this is just and a fair system of taxation. Yet this is a story told time and again across this state.
Perhaps we have largely been ignored for our effort because we aren’t an organized Union effort, an AFP, a Freedomworks, an ACORN or an Americans For Democratic Action. You won’t find offices with paid staff. What you will find are citizens using their own computers, printers and the social media doing everything they can to make this happen. I believe that this is exactly why our story needs to be told.
Please consider covering the Demonstration for Support of Property Tax Independence on September 24th, 2013. We call it the Fill-A-Bus-Tour because we are asking people to fill those buses and on that day we will make Property Tax Independence the central issue through the unfunded citizen led lobbying efforts as we visit with our legislators to tell them….NO TAX SHOULD HAVE THE POWER TO LEAVE YOU HOMELESS!