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Gov. Wolf & House Republicans Inch Closer To A Property Tax Deal

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For decades, Pennsylvania governors and legislators have promised -- but never delivered -- substantial tax relief from higher and higher school property taxes.

"I remember conversations about this back in the '80s," Gov. Tom Wolf recalled on Wednesday afternoon.

But now Wolf and Republican state House leaders are inching toward a bi-partisan deal.

On Tuesday, Republicans put off a committee vote on their property tax cut bill at the request of the governor who wants to negotiate a compromise.

"We both want property tax relief," Wolf told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. "Our proposals differ, so we need to sit down and talk about that. By doing what they did yesterday, I think they signaled they want to extend that conversation, and I think that's a great thing."

Steve Miskin, a House Republican spokesman, says negotiators from both sides are already meeting, adding "We're out of the parking lot and in the ballpark, and we're trying to get something done."

"People really want change, so it's time we did something substantial," noted Wolf.

But there are key differences, and not all legislators want to trade higher income and sales taxes for lower property taxes.

Wolf wants to increase the sales tax to 6.6 percent from 6.0 percent but expand it to cover more items, while Republican reformers would raise the sales tax to 7 percent but leave all the exemptions intact.

Both raise the state income tax to 3.7 percent from 3.07 percent.

"They're talking substantive property tax relief, and so am I, and that's a great place to start," said Wolf.

Both claim to use the tax hikes to cut school property taxes by 50 percent on average, but Republicans say Wolf siphons off dollars for other spending.

Another sticking point -- how to keep school districts from raising taxes after the tax cut.

"School districts aren't going to come back and raise taxes," said Wolf. "This has to be dollar for dollar tax reduction."

If the parties can cut a deal, a vote is likely in mid-May.

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