Wolf approves property tax extension, vetoes link with fed’s expansion of ‘critical’ worker advisory guidelines

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Monday that, among other provisions, will provide property tax relief by allowing taxing districts to waive late fees for property taxes as long as they are paid by the end of 2020.

The legislation, proposed by state Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, includes several provisions that allow government and private sector activity to:

  • Extend deadlines for property tax discount rates to any date until Aug. 31.
  • Conduct meeting remotely.
  • Notarize documents remotely.

“Local governments need the flexibility to continue to conduct their business and help struggling community residents during these extraordinarily difficult times,” said Martin, chair of the state Senate’s Local Government Committee.

The legislation reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and requires it to study the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on health systems. Under the law, school districts can renegotiate contracts with service providers to ensure payment of personnel and fixed costs amid mandatory school closures.

Amid demonstrations outside the state capitol building and surrounding streets calling for the reopening of the commonwealth’s business sector, Wolf vetoed a bill that would have required state officials to use federal guidelines to determine which businesses can reopen during the pandemic.

The bill would have potentially broadened the number of companies allowed to resume operations by requiring the state Department of Community and Economic Development to conform to an advisory memo from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency identifying “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

The advisory list of workforce sectors included food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation services, communications and information technology and infrastructure support services.

“This is not an easy decision, but it is the right course of Pennsylvania,” Wolf said in a memo accompanying his veto. “Reopening tens of thousands of businesses too early will only increase the spread of the virus, place more lives at risk, increase the death tolls and extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic.”

Justin Henry is the regional reporter for the Central Penn Business Journal and the Lehigh Valley Business. He can be reached at jhenry@bridgetowermedia.com.

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