Natural Gas Drilling: Rendell caved on the Severance Tax; Rep. George and Rep. McCall are still in it to win it

I woke up Monday morning to hear on WHYY that Governor Rendell had abandoned the idea of imposing a tax on the extraction of natural gas from our state's massive but deeply buried reserves of natural gas. If he'd given a better explanation for his decision, I might be able to keep quiet about it, but the reason he said we shouldn't do it because it would kill a fledgling industry. Hogwash. Everywhere else the industry operates has a severance tax already and we've got more gas here than all of them combined (well, okay, we have the most, hands down -- no one knows exactly).

Besides, it's not a new industry at all. It's the same rigs, same teams, same operations already operating in Texas and Wyoming and Colorado. Moving to a new state doesn't make it a new industry. In fact, moving those rigs around to tap new gas plays is just how the business works. They already know how to do it. That's the essence of what they do.

So, the Inquirer did an editorial today spelling this out with numbers. Why, they ask, should we believe that a modest tax would quash this operation when the revenue forecast of the main players are so rosy? It seems like there is plenty of money there.

Some context the Inquirer didn't mention. Did you know that we don't tax the extraction of any natural resource from our state? Not coal. Not gas. Not wood. Not freaking gravel. Why? Because the coal industry is so powerful here that they have time to argue about any severance tax because they believe that as soon as one resource gets taxed that would take us that much closer to taxing coal. And they don't want that to be taxed ever. So they fight them all.


But we had a Governor who had said he would back taxing gas and Democrats who said they would, too. We had that, but now we don't anymore. It's too bad. Fortunately, the House Dems seem to be standing pat on Severance Tax, and that's the right call. Rep. George told PA Environmental Digest that he's standing firm on the Severance Tax and that Speaker McCall is with him.
Clean Water Action Pennsylvania

believes that the severance tax is so important that we canvassed part of McCall's district on it recently and delivered a stack of letters to him from locals who agreed: tax the shale and make it pay for environmental protection.

In fact, we specifically argue that a piece of the tax should be used for hiring and training enough DEP inspectors that one can be on site for each well bore at the stage of siting, drilling, cementing, stimulating and the closing of waste pits.

Mr. Nutter Goes to Harrisburg

It's Our Money's Ben Waxman had a nice set of factors that might make the sales tax hike get accepted in Harrisburg called "Selling the Sales Tax," including my favorite weird rationale that started with Mrs. Verna: the higher rate will help business elsewhere.

Who thinks this will pass? Why do people think the silence has been deafening on this phase of the process? And hey, Ben, who the heck is CleanUpPhilly?

Where do we go from here? Down to the lake I fear.

For the record this is my screed on the sales tax issue right now.

The question unasked in all of this is: How in the face of declining receipts at a 7% rate, will more revenue get collected at a higher 8%? State-wide, receipts from the sales tax dropped $100 million below estimate, to about $600 million. In Philly itself the decline is 6.7%.

Mayor's Task Force on Taxes and Competitiveness

Missed nearly everyone at the first public hearing on the Mayor's Task Force on the tax structure, and economic competitiveness. Jonathan Stein showed up, nice to see, but otherwise the witness part of the room was nearly empty.

On the selfish side, I'm glad the LVT advocates had lots o'time, but on the public service side, I'd suggest that anti-establishment viewpoints try to make the next one.

The Chamber of Commerce had all the time in the world to build a case for privilege and their pro big dogz agenda.

Next one's in August.
Joshua Vincent

How To Think About Tax Systems

YPP may not be the right place to post this essay. But the issue raised in the debate about the LVT have gone to the cutting edge of contemporary thought about distributive justice. So maybe it will be helpful.

There is no tax system that, from every point of view and in every particular case, will always look just. That’s true for two reasons. First, our intuitions about justice are quite varied and what looks just from one point of view might not look just from another. Second, what looks just in the micro case might be impossible to create in an large, complex market based economy. Thus we can’t define rules of justice for a political economy as a whole that looks only at the individual case and does not take into account the broad consequences of one or another set of political and social arrangements.

The Income Tax: Some Cases

BE THERE: Brett Mandel and Alan Butkovitz Square off in Bella Vista April 14th!



City Controller Candidates

Tues. April 14th at 7PM SHARP!
10th and FITZWATER Sts.

Learn How We Can Keep
PROPERTY TAXES from SKYROCKETING w/ Josh Vincent ---------------------------
Learn About Bella Vista's NEW Triangle Park –
our community's 5th park!
Get Details on Upcoming Bella Vista KIDS FAIRE, sponsored by St. Rep Babette Josephs this Spring

and learn more about this Fall's PHILADELPHIA ZOO DAY IN BELLA VISTA. The animals are coming to the hood!

Bella Vista United Civic Association

The trouble w/temporary taxes

I was a big supporter of Mike Nutter from the time he announced his candidacy for Mayor of Philadelphia. And I'll give him appropriate credit for attempting to take serious fiscal measures to deal w/the serious fical problems facing Philadelphia.

But I question the notion that he can enact temporary hikes in property taxes + the local sales tax. Temporary taxes? Two words for that: Johnstown Flood.

The Johnstown Flood was an enormous disaster which occurred in 1889. It was so enormous that a special tax was added to liquor sales (in 1936) to assist in paying for relief to the affected areas. This tax remains on the books today, long after even the great grandchildren of the victims of the flood are gone.

Deux Credit: Mayor Takes on Tax Delinquents

Following up on Brady's post ("Due Credit") on the ACORN action (and it looks like he beat me to it this morning, as I was typing) against the Eagles for the $9.6+ million owed in back luxury box revenue, I wanted to post on Mayor Nutter taking it to another set of tax deadbeats

March 5th Event on Budget and Taxes

Hanging out near the Coral Street Arts House tonight? join the NKCDC on a discussion of taxes, budgets and economic sanity...

Nutter goes national: Tax hikes favored over service cuts

Thanks to Hannah for already linking to this New York Times article, but this really is worth a more in-depth look:

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Michael A. Nutter said Tuesday that Philadelphia would have to raise taxes or fees to close its budget deficit.

"We can’t just cut our way out of this situation," Mr. Nutter said in an interview with WHYY radio. "We will have to consider very seriously some form of revenue enhancement."

This new rhetoric from the Mayor comes following the publication of PennPraxis’ report on the recent citywide budget hearings. The summary of the talks is incredibly encouraging of the sensibility and humanity of a majority of Philadelphians – and not surprising for those of us on YPP who commissioned a poll months back that yielded similar conclusions. The difference is of course that this report hit the national news as a city that is demanding other options.

The report says that the majority of people:

  • don't want services cut
  • will pay more in taxes if they have to
  • want to ease the tax burden on low-income people
  • and would consider alternative correction opportunities for non-violent offenders if it could mean closing a city jail.

"Given a chance to confront the tough tradeoffs, most citizens opted to tax themselves — while struggling to give a tax break to those less fortunate," said a report by the Project for Civic Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, which organized the meetings.

Working groups concluded that residents would be prepared — though reluctant — to pay higher taxes on sales, wages, real estate transfers, businesses and parking, said the report, published late Monday.

That's pretty amazing.

What’s most encouraging though is that in times of crisis, people want to know that government is there to take care of core and essential services that benefit and protect not only the majority of its residents but especially the most vulnerable.

It's great to be a part of this city.

Philadelphians Are Clear: They Want Their Services, and Understand the Need for Revenue Solutions

So, I combed through the budget data from the first three budget workshops. There are some deeper issues about how these things operate, which I would like to explore soon, but even taking all the caveats, I wanted to look through the numbers, and see how many 'points' people came up with, and whether they were willing to pay for services.

I compiled the data from Its Our City (South Philly, Northeast, and Germantown). What I did is in a spreadsheet here. Please feel free to error check my data if interested, because I did it quickly, and may have screwed something up.

A few things I found:

Another truly "civic" foundation gone

So Brett Mandel issued his last email blast as XD of Philadelphia Forward, which is offically going on hiatus.

Seems the soldiers left over span of the last few years, and now the generals are giving up the fight, too. Who will be left to throw the facts back into our city officials melodramatic speeches as they play on our last few good nerves with "what if"s?

Our "good guy" mayor: "What if I beat you minions with the threat of a ten percent reduction in primary services?" SILENCE
good guy again: "Not reacting emotionally yet? OK, what if I beat you with the threat of a 20 percent reduction in primary city services?" SILENCE AGAIN

Philly Budget Debate @ PFC Meetup Wednesday Night

Bad news, good news, friends.

Bad: Councilman Bill Green has had to reschedule his budget talk until March Philly For Change Meetup.

Good: In its place, PFC is pleased to host


One Philadelphia's (and YPP's) Stan Shapiro and Philadelphia Forward's Brett Mandel have graciously agreed to debate and answer questions about the best methods for dealing with the city's budget crisis.

Bring your good questions, your good ideas, and (seriously, people) your good behavior, but otherwise:

Let's Heat Up a February Night!

Also on the bill: Lauren Townsend on unlocking condoms and Judge Angeles Roca on our criminal justice system.

PHILLY FOR CHANGE FEBRUARY MEETUP is Wednesday February 4 at 7:00 at Tritone, 1508 South Street (wheelchair accessible).

PS: Don't forget to crush your empty PBR if you want another Special.

Bulletin to Harrisburg: Philadelphia is Part of Pennsylvania

OK, folks, let's see if I can get your attention. I think it may be that we should have cuts in Philadelphia taxes.

No, I haven't gone all Brett Mandel on you. I'm not for tax cuts at any price, nor do I see them as the best tool for moving, shall we say, Philadelphia Forward. If cuts in Philadelphia taxes mean the slightest decrease in City services, or cuts in benefits for City workers, I remain against them. But Philadelphia, compared to other cities and counties in the State is overtaxed . . . by a lot. That's not only wrong from the standpoint of economic policy, it's just plain unfair. And tax equity should be a value that's high on the list of anyone calling themselves progressive.

The Either/Or Trap

The choice that conventional wisdom posits is: tax cuts or service cuts. Again, if we get away from the taxation of mobile things (jobs, capital, commerce) then we can avoid the trap of assuming there is a linear debate and and linear way to act: run from one end of the line to another. There isn't. We live in a bumpy, roundish granular world.

The city can, right now, shift its budget needs away from taxation of the disappearing things, and tax instead that which will never disappear: land and its inherent value.

I propose taking the tax breaks that privilege grants: Comcast, Cira Centre, Sunoco, etc. and extend that same non-taxation of labor and capital to all Phladelphians. It's called land value tax.

We explain and demonstrate this on our new project

Unless one believes that vacant land owners and waters of valuable land deserve total love and hugs, a land value tax is something people can use to jump off that defined little linear path.

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