Potential funding stream would freeze property taxes for seniors

Harrisburg – October 24, 2013 – State Senate Democrats said today they were pleased that Gov. Tom Corbett has now signaled his approval of their plan to direct revenues generated from small games of chance in taverns to the Lottery Fund. The Democratic plan would bolster lottery programs and create a potential funding source for a property tax freeze benefitting seniors.

“Senate Democrats are unified in the desire to use the revenues generated from small games of chance in taverns to help seniors,” Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the Senate Democratic leader, said. “Our members believe strongly that these new revenues should be targeted to aid seniors instead of being disbursed into the General Fund.

“We certainly hope that the final version of the small games legislation includes our idea to target the revenue for the Lottery Fund.”

Costa, Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), who sponsored the plan as an amendment to House Bill 1098, said today that the new revenues from the Senate Democratic plan would provide flexibility and create opportunities.

On Wednesday, the Corbett administration circulated an email to lawmakers indicating that they were supportive of putting the money from the tavern small games into the Lottery Fund.

The Senate Democratic plan — detailed in the Blake amendment — was voted down during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday. The legislation was eventually reported from committee and passed in the Senate, 39-11. It is now in the House of Representatives.

The new tax on small games of chance in taverns is expected to generate $38 million this year and $156 million in 2014-‘15, according to Senate fiscal notes.

“Senate Democrats have tried to explain why this was so important and how it could be used to help fund critical senior programs,” Hughes said. “We are hopeful that with the governor’s endorsement of our plan, House members will adopt the approach and support it when they return to session in November.”

Blake said helping fund senior programs is important and the new revenue may be the funding conduit that allows the General Assembly to develop a property tax freeze for seniors.

“The new funds would give the legislature flexibility and resources that can be set aside to help seniors address high property taxes,” Blake said. “These new revenues must be employed effectively and a specific use must be identified.

“My amendment made it clear that the revenues should be earmarked for the Lottery Fund, from which we already provide property tax relief and from which we already fund essential programs for our seniors.”