HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania is on schedule to cut homeowners' property taxes for the first time next year with revenue from its year-old slot-machine-gambling industry, Gov. Rendell's budget chief said yesterday.
A special property-tax-relief fund contained $506 million in slots proceeds as of last Friday, and nearly $36 million the state collected from its six slots parlors in November will be added to the fund within the next week, Budget Secretary Michael Masch said.
"I think, at long last, we're poised to see general property-tax relief in Pennsylvania as the governor has promised," Masch said during his annual midyear budget briefing.
State law requires the budget secretary to certify by April 15 each year whether the fund will reach the $570 million threshold required for the state to distribute the money for tax cuts in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The money will allow school districts to reduce residential property-tax bills and will reduce taxes paid by those who pay Philadelphia's wage tax.
Masch said he would not be able to calculate the average tax cut homeowners will receive for the 2008-09 fiscal year until he makes the revenue certification in April.
Three-quarters of the money in the fund can be used for tax cuts. The rest must be held in reserve.
Pennsylvania's first slots parlor, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, opened in November 2006, and five more have followed suit.
A seventh is scheduled to open in February at Penn National racetrack near Harrisburg, and four other casinos are licensed to be built in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Bethlehem.
Masch also provided an update on the state's tax collections.
The state took in $9.5 billion during the first five months of the fiscal year that began July 1. That surpassed the administration's revenue estimate for the July-through-November period by $136 million, or 1.5 percent, Masch said.