Rendell slams tax break, kills education bill

Posted: October 22, 2010

Gov. Rendell today vetoed a comprehensive education bill because he said one provision would extend an unfair tax break to some charter-school landlords.

The veto derailed a wider bill that included initiatives to combat student violence, make college textbooks more affordable and improve financial literacy.

But Rendell said the charter-school provision was possibly unconstitutional and he couldn't support it.

"It would give a small handful of nonprofits special access to tax breaks and encourage others to create new nonprofit corporate entities in order to 'game' the system - and reduce revenues for already-beleaguered communities and public schools," he said in a statement.

The veto stirred outrage among Republicans.

"His stance defies logic and demonstrates his blind hatred for public school choice," said State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R., Dauphin).

Charter schools that own their own buildings are already exempt from property taxes. The provision in question would have extended that exemption to any nonprofit landlord that rented property to a charter school.

Some foundations that serve as landlords already get such a tax break, but some do not. The office of Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), who sponsored the bill, said it would affect just three schools: the Collegium and Avon Grove charter schools in Chester County and the School Lane Charter School in Bucks County.

Rendell contended the provision was unconstitutional because it didn't extend the exemption to landlords who rent to other nonprofit tenants, like senior centers or religious groups.

"That, in and of itself, violates the Uniformity Clause of the state Constitution, which requires uniformity of taxation,"said Rendell.

Piccola called the veto a "final, mean-spirited act" of the outgoing governor.

"This bill represents two years of bipartisan efforts by both Chambers to make our schools safer and better," Piccola said in a statement.


Contact John P. Martin at 610-313-8120 or at jmartin@phillynews.com.

Staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.

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