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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

Real estate taxes are the main revenue source for local governments, but the annual sticker shock of property tax bills makes them unpopular among many taxpayers.

The most intense criticism often focuses on the impact of property taxes on seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes but own valuable properties that increase their tax liability.

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Pennsylvania House Bill 814 seeks to lessen that burden by allowing local governments to freeze property taxes for senior citizens at their current rates.

“For our seniors relying on a fixed or limited income, this program will provide a much-needed degree of financial certainty that will ensure they may remain in their homes,” said Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Monroe, the bill’s primary sponsor, in a co-sponsorship memo. 

At least six states, including New Jersey, already offer some form of property tax freeze for seniors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In most cases, the programs are optional for local governments and have income limits that are set at either the state or local level.

House Bill 814 would limit property tax relief to people 65 years or older with a combined household income of less than $80,000 who have lived in Pennsylvania for at least five years. People who are eligible would have to apply and provide proof of payment for last year's property taxes. Their taxes would be frozen at that amount for future years.  

This bill is sitting in the House Finance Committee, and has not yet received a vote.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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