This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
The State Grange has, in recent years, consistently advocated the increase of appropriations for the assistance of the local governments. The policy is well expressed in the followng excerpt from the report of its Legislative Committee at the Annual Session of 1904. " One of the foremost questions confronting the farmers and other real estate owners is the equalization of taxation. The Grange has made a steadfast effort to protect the farmers against extortion by taxation. It succeeded in having the school appropriation increased, three-fourths of the personal property tax returned to the counties and the liquor licenses, thus making an annual saving to the taxpayers of the state of over $12,000,000. " *50 The final word of the committee was a demand that the state assume a larger proportion of the local burdens or that it relinquish additional objects of taxation to the localities. *51
The Grange has also been active in bombarding the legislature with petitions praying for relief of "farms and homes of oppressive taxation," for the reduction of the burden of local taxation, and for the removal of "oppressive taxation of real estate. *52 In 1910 the Grange News printed a communication which advocated the "Grange plan" for equalizing taxation. This plan provided that the state should pay the minimum salary of school teachers for the minimum term, pay one-half of the local road tax (not to exceed $25.00 per mile), build all state roads, and return to the counties such taxes as were collected by them for state purposes. *53 In the following year the legislative platform of the Grange demanded that equalization of taxation be brought about by (1) relieving real estate from taxation by increasing state appropriations for local purposes; (2) by the payment of the minimum salary of school teachers from the state treasury; (3) by an appropriation by the state to the townships that levied cash road taxes equal to the amount of such taxes, but not to exceed $25.00 per mile; and, (4) by a strict enforcement of the constitutional provision for uniformity of taxation. *54
50 Grange News, vol. I, No. 6 (Jan. 1905) p. 67.
51 Idem, p. 68.
52 See, for example, the petitions presented to the legislature in 1909, Legislative Record, pp. 4620-4622.
53 Grange News, vol. VI, (Mar. 1910) pp. 165-166. The writer was a Mr. Arthur Dennison.
The effect of this activity on the part of the farmers cannot, of course, be accurately estimated. That it has had some effect in recent years may, however, be inferred from the fact that the first three proposals of the Grange have been embodied in acts of the legislature.
The increase of subvention for school purposes during the decade 1900 to 1910 is very marked as may be seen from the table on page 159. In 1907, after the passage of the law providing a minimum salary of forty dollars a month for all teachers, and fifty dollars for experienced teachers, the legislature provided for the payment of the extra burden thus placed upon the poorer districts. *55 Furthermore, since 1891, the state expenditures for subvention to local charitable institutions has increased very rapidly. *56 The assumption by the state of the cost of uniform primary elections also relieves the localities of a burden that might have fallen upon them.
The period 1874 to 1916 witnessed a great increase in the functions of government in Pennsylvania and the larger part of the new functions was assumed by the localities. In addition old services have been improved and their performance has become more costly. At the same time, the revenue system has continued to be highly centralized. With the exception of certain license taxes and the personal property tax, the state has retained all the revenue resources it had acquired by 1874, and with the growth of the industrial interests the corporation taxes have become relatively more important than in 1874. The localities have been restricted to taxes on real estate, on personal tax, and a few licenses.
In order to provide the large revenues necessary to carry on the new and elaborate services the state, rather than resort to decentralization of its revenue system, has made large subventions to the local governments and to eleemosynary institutions that perform local services. Those in authority have preferred this method of equalization to decentralization or to assigned taxes. It remains to be shown in the succeeding chapters how the method adopted has worked in practice.
54 Grange News, vol. VII, p. 156.
55 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1907), p. x. Cf. infra, p. 178.
56 See infra, Chapter IX.