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Working to Make “Clean and Green” Program Friendlier for Landowners
When the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act went into effect in 1974, this program -- also known as “Clean and Green” -- was intended to provide reduced real estate tax levies for landowners who keep their land as agricultural, forest or open space. Currently, more than 9.3 million acres in Pennsylvania are enrolled in Clean and Green.
Unfortunately, the overly harsh penalties connected with the program are keeping some property owners from enrolling in the system. If landowners enrolled in Clean and Green who change their property’s use to one not authorized under the program are subject to up to seven years of rollback taxes at six percent interest per year. That rollback tax is the difference between what was paid under Clean and Green versus what would have been paid if the property had not been enrolled.
That draconian penalty keeps some property owners from enrolling in the program. There are some properties that because of terrain or other physical features are never going to be feasible for development. You don’t need an incentive to keep them as open space. Nature took care of that. Then you have properties that could be developed. Few of those property owners know what the future holds, so it is not always in their best interests to limit their options as would be the case under the current Clean and Green penalties.
The current system is actually a deterrent to them. This program would be much more attractive if the penalty for a use change was more realistic. A property owner with a quality piece of real estate could enroll and hopefully stay with the program, but would have the option to leave it without being pounded with a punitive tax penalty.
I am preparing to introduce legislation to reduce the rollback tax requirement from seven years to one year and change the interest rate on the rollback taxes from six percent to one percent plus prime (capped at six percent).
This proposal is based on feedback I’ve received from my constituents, in particular the ones who would like to participate but believe the penalty for withdrawing from the program is much too costly. These changes would make Clean and Green a more flexible program. The current six percent interest penalty is simply not a realistic number in today’s financing world. It should factor in fluctuations of the interest rate.
While the rollback tax is imposed as an incentive to preserve agricultural land, it has also served as a deterrent as well. Reducing the rollback tax and the interest charge will encourage landowners to not only participate in the Clean and Green program, but also encourage them to more seriously consider leaving Clean and Green to explore potential development opportunities that benefit the economy of their local communities.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
I am pleased to announce the winners of my recent photo contest. Two winners were selected from photos representing all four seasons in the 41st Senatorial District.
“Cardinal” submitted by Nicole Stewart of Creekside, Indiana County.
“The Allegheny River Valley” submitted by Michael Markilinski of Armstrong County.
“Outdoor Scene: Cowanshannock Creek” submitted by Randy Rosenberger of Kittanning, Armstrong County.
“Monarch Butterfly” submitted by Christine Chemelli of Kittanning, Armstrong County.
“Summer Shot of a Deer in a Field” submitted by Brogan Myers of Spring Church, Armstrong County.
“Donkey at the Dayton Fair” submitted by Frederick Doerfler of Sarver, Butler County
“Another Deer Season” submitted by Alexis McConnell of Blairsville, Indiana County.
“Autumn Reflection on Twolick Lake” submitted by Patti Stoudt of Indiana, Indiana County.
The winning entries will be prominently featured in the large display window of my Indiana District Office at 618 Philadelphia Street. A total of 95 entries were submitted and all of the photos can be seen at http://www.senatordonwhite.com/photo-contest/.
I want to thank everyone who shared their photos. We received some truly excellent entries that capture the beauty of the 41st Senatorial District. It was extremely tough to select just two winners from each category.
Department of Revenue Offers Assistance for State Tax Filing
With tax season now underway, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reminds residents that assistance is available for filing personal income tax returns for tax year 2015.
All taxpayers who received more than $33 in total gross taxable income in calendar year 2015 must file Pennsylvania personal income tax returns by midnight, Monday, April 18.
Personal income tax assistance is available through the department’s Online Customer Service Center at www.revenue.pa.gov and by calling (717) 787-8201 between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. State tax forms and instructions are currently available at www.revenue.pa.gov. As a convenience for residents of the 41st District, many of the common State tax forms are available at my District offices.
Taxpayers may also visit a Revenue district office, listed in the government pages of local phone directories, for basic state personal income tax filing assistance. Assistance at district offices is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and taxpayers are encouraged to bring their Social Security cards with them to facilitate tax filing.
PHMC Accepting Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Applications
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is now accepting applications for Keystone Historic Preservation Grants.
A total of $1 million will be available for grants for projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania. Two types of grants – project and construction – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant.
For grant program guidelines and eGrant application instructions, visit PHMC online at www.phmc.pa.gov and click on “Grants and Funding” under the PRESERVATION tab on the top Navigation Bar. The application deadline is March 14, 2016. For more information, contact Karen Arnold by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 717-783-9927.
Turnpike Commission to Review Storm Issues
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) has launched a review of its response to and management of an incident that occurred during the January 23-24 blizzard that resulted in hundreds of travelers being stranded for 24 hours or more on a 16-mile section of westbound Interstate 70/76 in Somerset and Bedford Counties.
The first phase of the PTC’s review involves the collection of data for a
timeline of the response and traffic-management decisions and the actions taken
such as lowering the speed limit, banning trucks and detouring traffic off the
highway. Phase 2 of the review will examine the various decisions made and
actions taken before, during and after the event along with an analysis of the
consequences of those decisions and actions.
286 Main Capitol