FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Frank Dermody
House action on reassessment thwarted again in 2011
Bill was changed in Senate, then vetoed by Corbett
HARRISBURG, Dec. 30 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said the uproar about property reassessment in Allegheny County could have been avoided if the state Senate and Gov. Tom Corbett had agreed to a temporary moratorium on court-ordered reassessments that the House passed in June.
The Senate instead amended the bill (H.B. 1696) so that it effectively applied only to Washington County, rather than to all counties in Pennsylvania. Corbett then vetoed the bill. It is the only veto he has issued since becoming governor.
A similar bill sponsored by Dermody passed the House in 2009 but did not advance to a vote in the Senate. The bill that passed in June would have stopped court-ordered reassessments until Nov. 30, 2012, to permit the legislature to pass a law ensuring fairer reassessment procedures.
"In 2009 and again in 2011, the House of Representatives recognized that Pennsylvania's current assessment system is fragmented with little uniformity between counties,” Dermody said. “The House tried to address this by putting court-ordered reassessments on hold until state policy makers have a chance to enact policies that are fairer for all counties and more understandable to homeowners.
"Year by year, the inequities of property taxation across the state grow larger. Although the problem has gained a high profile in Allegheny County, it exists in every county across Pennsylvania. No court should decree that one county must do a reassessment while others in the same situation do not,” Dermody said.
He said a 2009 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Allegheny County's assessment system violated the uniformity clause of the state constitution. The court further said that the same assessment system is used by other counties in the state, and that the General Assembly should adjust the state's property assessment laws to ensure their constitutionality.
"The moratorium that the House passed twice would give the General Assembly suitable time to review the state's current reassessment methods and to pass a state law to address the legal deficiencies identified by the state Supreme Court," said Dermody.
"Under the current system, lawyers and judges have power by default to force action in selected counties that causes sudden and dramatic increases in homeowners’ property assessments. The legislature needs to recognize the unfairness of this and act once and for all to find a statewide solution."
Dermody said House Democrats will continue to fight for a comprehensive system that is fairer and more understandable to homeowners in all 67 counties.
He praised the leadership of Reps. Jesse White and Brandon Neuman, both D-Washington, who sponsored successful legislation earlier this year to establish a task force that is developing criteria for data submission, verification and collection, as well as a set of uniform standards for all county reassessments. The task force will report its findings in early 2012.