November 08, 2017
Voters in Pennsylvania on Tuesday approved a measure that eventually could lead to the elimination of property taxes in the state.
The ballot question passed to permit the state legislature to amend the state constitution to allow local taxing bodies to exempt the entire assessed value of primary residences in their jurisdictions from taxation.
With more than 99 percent of districts reporting, the measure passed with nearly 54 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Voters in Philadelphia and its four suburban counties did not endorse the measure, with at least 54 percent in each of those counties voting no. (The vote against was at least 60 percent in Chester and Philadelphia counties.)
Despite gaining voters' approval statewide, property taxes will not just disappear. Further legislative actions will be necessary. But it would provide a path to residential property tax relief.
The referendum offered no funding to replace property tax revenues, so state law would have to be changed to provide alternative revenue sources to fund municipalities, counties and school districts.
Local taxing bodies have been able to exclude up to 50 percent of the median assessed valuation of all properties in their jurisdictions since 1997, but few have done so.
If approved by the voters, the legislation would have to pass the General Assembly and be signed by the governor. It would also require approval by any local jurisdictions proposing it.
Philadelphia voters also authorized the city to borrow $172 million for capital improvements.
With nearly 98 of precincts reporting, nearly 70 percent of voters endorsed the measure.
The money borrowed through the bond issue will be spent for five purposes: transit, $4,767,309; streets and sanitation, $23,997,918; municipal buildings, $95,666,840; parks, recreation and museums, $32,325,872; and economic and community development, $15,242,061.
A Republican judge appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last summer to fill a vacancy was elected Tuesday and will keep her seat.
Sallie Updyke Mundy, a former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, defeated Democrat Dwayne Woodruff, an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judge who presides over family and juvenile matters in a two-way race for a 10-year term. According to unofficial vote tallies, Mundy garnered more than 52 percent of the vote.
Two Supreme Court justices – Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who has been on the Supreme Court bench since 1998, and Justice Debra Todd, on the Supreme Court bench since 2008 – were retained by voters for another 10-year term.
Three Democrats and one Republican were elected Tuesday to 10-year terms on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. All are women.
Winning seats on the bench were Democrats Maria McLaughlin, Deborah Kunselman, Carolyn Nichols and Republican Mary Murray.
McLaughlin, family law judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 2012, was the top vote-getter in a crowded field of nine candidates vying for four seats, with 14.09 percent of the vote, according to an unofficial count.
Kunselman, an administrative judge for the Civil Division of the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas, had 13.61 percent, and Nichols, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge, had 12.78 percent.
Murray, a magisterial district court judge, collected 12.01 percent of the vote.
Republican Jacqueline Shogan, who has sat on the Superior Court bench since 2008, was retained by voters for another 10-year term.
The Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania Superior Court were elected to 10-year terms.
Ellen Ceisler, a nine-year judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Irene McLaughlin Clark, a former judge on the Pittsburgh Municipal Court now in private practice, outpolled Republicans Christine Fizzano Cannon, a Delaware County judge, and Paul N. Lalley.
Cannon's campaign went to court Tuesday after it was discovered that her name appeared incorrectly on as many as half of the voting machines in Philadelphia. Her name appeared as "Christine Fizzano," less the Cannon.
Nine Democrats were elected to 10-year terms on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
They are Deborah Canty, Shanese Johnson, Deborah Cianfrani, Vikki Kristiansson, Lucretia C. Clemons, Zac Shaffer, Mark B. Cohen, Stella Tsai, and Vincent Furlong, who was also cross-filed as a Republican.
In addition, six Common Pleas sought retention. They are Linda A. Carpenter, Ellen H. Ceisler, Michael E. Erdos, Shelley Robins New, Rosalyn K. Robinson and Teresa M. Sarmina.
Democrats Mariss Brumbach and Matt Wolf were elected to six-year terms on Philadelphia Municipal Court.
Brumbach is a graduate of St. Joseph's University and Widener University Law School. Wolf is a graduate of LeMoyne College and Loyola University Law School.
In addition, nine Municipal Court sought retention. They are James M. De Leon, Thomas F. Gehret, Nazario Jimenez Jr., William A. Meehan Jr., Bradley K. Moss, David C. Shuter, Karen Y. Simmons, Joyce O. Webb Eubanks and Marvin L. Williams.