Letter: Pa. needs more tax breaks for strained communities

To The Editor,

On Tuesday night, I joined millions of Americans and watched the latest Democratic debate. Despite the mudslinging, I heard something I liked. When asked about how to help minority communities, Vice President Joe Biden said he favors a First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit. That was a relief. In Chester County, with its coveted schools, clean air, and preserved green spaces, housing is not cheap. I looked up other candidates’ views on this, too. According to his website, even Democratic Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders supports a first-time homebuyer assistance program.

When I was a state representative for Pennsylvania’s 158th District in central and southern Chester County, I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for a First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account bill to let first-time buyers save for the purchase of a home and deduct that money from their state income taxes. Per usual, the Senate let the clock run out before voting on it.

Then came the blue wave of 2018. I, like most other moderate suburban Republicans, lost my re-election.

Thankfully, one of the first bills to be voted on the following year was the First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account bill. It passed almost unanimously. Out of 203 state representatives – Democrats, Republicans, and even a few Democratic Socialists – only one state house member voted against it. It was self-described “moderate” Christina Sappey, the Democrat who took my place. Citing opposition from the PA Department of Revenue, Rep. Sappey stood by her vote in a facebook post.

Just this week, Sappey took another swipe at tax breaks for families in a local letter to the editor. While explaining her opposition to raiding the Racehorse Development Fund to pay down student loan debt, she offered the alternative of “…taking a long, clear look at the $500 million in tax breaks our state grants annually.” Don’t get me wrong – under no circumstances should our local horse breeders and equestrians have to foot the bill for students who took out loans, myself included. But neither should the recipients of tax breaks like seniors, farmers, veterans, active duty military, or the disabled.

Pennsylvania needs more tax breaks for strained communities, not fewer. Here are just a few I support: 1) freezing property tax rates for senior citizens, 2) making school teachers’ out-of-pocket classroom expenses tax deductible, 3) creating a “sales tax holiday” for back-to-school supplies, and 4) eliminating income taxes on tips for waiters. It doesn’t take a degree in economics to know that tax relief creates jobs, which creates taxpayers, which creates higher tax revenues for the state.

That’s why I’m running again. Unlike my opponent, my highest loyalties are not with the state’s chief tax collection agency. If Bernie Sanders’ claims of strong polling on Tuesday were correct, then he might just become the President of the United States. If that happens, expect your federal taxes to increase. If it’s any consolation, Sanders would govern to the right of Christina Sappey and give relief to first-time homebuyers.


Eric Roe

West Bradford

Former PA State Representative (R-158)

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