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Blight bills, taxes likely topics at Bankers Day in Harrisburg

About 100 bankers will amass in Harrisburg on Monday to share their legislative hopes with state lawmakers.

Bankers Day at the Capitol, held by the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, lets bankers mingle with their elected officials and discuss issues important to their business and communities. 

Here are three issues the association expects might come up in conversation during the ninth annual event: 

1. Bills to address blight at vacant and abandoned properties

Bankers have worked for about five years on a bicameral, bipartisan Blight Task Force on measures that would clarify processes for foreclosing on vacant abandoned properties, said Luke Bernstein, senior vice president for external relations for the Pennsylvania Bankers Association. If passed, the companion House and Senate bills – HB 653 and SB 471 – could reduce the foreclosure process on such sites by about 240 days.

The process currently takes anywhere from 300 to 540 days, according to a memorandum attached to the House bill. 

The bills spell out processes to certify properties as abandoned or vacant and methods creditors must follow to go through an expedited foreclosure. As it stands, those processes are inconsistent and unclear, Bernstein said.

Getting these properties cleaned up is in the best interest of not only bankers, but also legislators and the communities they represent, Bernstein said.

2. Measures to keep the tax playing field level

Not long ago, Pennsylvania’s banks dodged a blow to their earnings when they stopped what would have been a rapid increase in bank shares tax, a capital-based levy they pay to the state.

A proposal by Gov. Tom Wolf would have raised the tax rate from 0.89 percent to 1.25 percent, but bankers helped negotiate that hike down to 0.95 percent, Bernstein said, while also gaining key clarifications in the legislative language.

That issue is in the rear-view mirror, with no increases proposed for the coming year. Bankers at Monday’s event will likely use some of their time to explain to legislators why it should stay that way, Bernstein said.

Pennsylvania’s communities, he noted, benefit from creating an environment where banks can thrive and play on a field even with that of institutions in other states.

3. Touting positive impact

Monday’s gathering will also serve as a sort of public-relations event for Pennsylvania’s bankers, who will talk to legislators about the value they bring to their communities. That includes everything from charitable involvement to lending to local employers.

“I think that’s a really important story that banks and bankers need to tell,” Bernstein said.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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