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AVI-Inspired Bills Pass First Test

The state House Urban Affairs Committee on Monday passed three bills that are part of a package of legislation designed to lessen the impact of Mayor Nutter's property tax reform effort, the Actual Value Initiative (AVI).

One bill, sponsored by state Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, chair of the Philadelphia delegation, would give the city the authority to place liens on property owned outside the city by delinquent taxpayers. That measure is intended to address the issue of speculators and other delinquent taxpayers who live and pay property taxes outside the city, while ignoring tax bills in Philadelphia.

A second bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mike O'Brien, would allow the city to conduct "means testing" for gentrification relief, which is a tax break for longtime homeowners in growing areas of the city. The bill would allow the relief to be based on income and age, preventing tax breaks from going to wealthy homeowners who otherwise might qualify.

The third bill, introduced by state Rep. Mike McGeehan, would allow homeowners to pay their property taxes in periodic installments. Homeowners with mortgages pay monthly into escrow accounts, but those without mortgages must make a one-time payment. As many as 40 percent of Philadelphia homeowners do not have mortgages, according to a recent Council analysis.

Those three bills could see a vote on the floor of the House next week. All three of the sponsors are Democrats.

"With the assistance and support of Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke, we were able to create legislation that will benefit all Philadelphians and lessen their property tax burden," Parker said in a news release. "The delegation will continue to work together to secure the passage of this much needed legislation."

One bills the delegation sought did not move through committee Monday – legislation that would start the process of amending the state Constitution to allow commercial and residential property to be taxed at different rates.

Many large cities tax commercial property at a higher rate, but Pennsylvania's "uniformity clause" prevents that here.

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