State Senate won't vote on AVI relief bills before break

The state Senate will begin its summer break without voting on several key pieces of legislation including a bill that would provide targeted relief to long time homeowners under Philadelphia's new property-tax system and another that would allow Mayor Nutter to collect millions of dollars from tax delinquents to help fund schools.

"Today Sen. Anthony Williams said the tax fairness package passed by the House and waiting for consideration by the Senate would not be voted on before the break," said state Rep. Cherelle Parker, chairwoman of the Philadelphia Delegation. "I remain hopeful those issues will be addressed in the fall."

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Parker

It's not clear why the legislative package, which was first considered by the Senate in mid-June, was not called up for a vote today. Williams did not respond to requests for comment. One state source said, "work remains to be done on those bills."

One of the bills, sponsored by Parker would have allowed the city to place liens on property owned by local tax deadbeats throughout the state. That bill was expected to help Nutter collect $28 million from tax delinquents to help the struggling school district. The city's only other planned contribution to the schools was a $2 per pack tax on cigarettes that would have generated $46 million and that proposal died when the Republican-run legislature failed to approve enabling legislation. (Though Williams plans on bringing it back from the dead in the fall.)

"We'd hoped for passage this week, but there is still time to pass these pieces of legislation when the General Assembly returns," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald. "And Mayor Nutter doesn't foresee any problems with carrying out the Administration's plans owing to this delay."

Parker said some state lawmakers from other counties requested that the cities they represent be allowed to place liens on property throughout the state too and the measure was subsequently amended. 

Also among the package of stalled bills was enabling legislation sponsored by state Rep. Michael O'Brien that would allow the city to provide gentrification relief based on financial need and age to homeowners under the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) and another sponsored by state Rep. Michael McGeehan that would allow eligible residents to make property-tax payments in installments.

Both the Nutter administration and City Council president Darrell Clarke are confident the bills will be approved in the fall.

Meanwhile, a crucial piece of Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia school district funding plan -- $45 million that had been owed to the federal government --is in limbo. A state Senate Committee amended the fiscal code today which included the one-time funding deal with Washington. The House will have to return to approve the fiscal code.

Corbett urged lawmakers to pass the fiscal code.

"The legislative leaders need to resolve their differences and act responsibly to send the Fiscal Code to my desk for approval as soon as possible," Corbett said in a statement.

Secretary of the Budget Charles Zogby said, failure to promptly pass the fiscal code could significantly impact spending and revenue, adding, "If left to languish, it will reduce this year's available funding by $235 million, potentially forcing cuts to higher education and will impact our ability to further fund Philadelphia schools."

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