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Advocate of medical marijuana sets sights on ending property taxes

Speaking to a group of mostly commercial real estate professionals, Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen made entirely of hemp.

What does that have to do with real estate? Maybe nothing.

Or maybe it was a sign that school property-tax elimination is the next big shoe to drop in Pennsylvania.

For years, Folmer said he heard from many people that his efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania would never go anywhere.

But in April, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law to legalize medical marijuana in the commonwealth. In July, the governor signed an industrial hemp bill.

Folmer carries the hemp pen as a reminder that legislative hurdles can be overcome in a bipartisan fashion in Pennsylvania.

The keynote speaker at a breakfast event held Thursday by the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, Folmer said he’s optimistic that school property taxes could be next. And that could open the door to address other big cost drivers in public education, including public pensions.

“Right now, we’re probably where we were (on votes),” he said, referring to Senate Bill 76, which failed in a close vote last year.

The bill would have eliminated school property taxes in favor of increased sales and personal income taxes.

Folmer, a sponsor of S.B. 76, said it’s not a perfect bill, but it can work.

His argument: How can anyone buy and keep a home if the government is going to tax them out of that property?

“Nobody should be taxed out of their home,” he said, calling the tax shift a much better way forward.

Homeownership, which has been shrinking in the U.S., confers meaning and a sense of neighborhood pride, Folmer said.

The legislation, which would need to be reintroduced next year in a new legislative session, would help rejuvenate the American dream of homeownership, he said.

A comparable version of the property tax bill has been introduced in the House.

“I’m hoping we can get something done,” Folmer said.

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