Stan Shapiro's blog

Can You Love A Tax, At Least on Valentine's Day?

There's this Chart that Councilwoman Sanchez obtained from the Department of Revenue last year about who pays the Business Privilege Tax.

Mayor Nutter: You can't Destroy the City to Save It

Yesterday the Mayor announced the horrible set of possible scenarios facing all of us in the next fiscal year starting July 1. It doesn't have to be that way. Here is One Philadelphia's plan to avert catastrophe. For more info, go to our website at onephiladelphia.org


ONE PHILADELPHIA FIVE YEAR BUDGET PROPOSAL

Mayor Nutter is forecasting a deficit of more than $1 billion over the life of the City's next Five Year Plan covering the period from Fiscal Year 2010 to 2014. To cover the shortfall, City officials have revealed that major service cutbacks are likely in such areas as trash delivery, homeless services, health centers, libraries, fire and police services, recreation centers and virtually everything else that Philadelphians rely upon. These cutbacks would come in the face of a growing economic upheaval that is throwing thousands of Philadelphians out of work and stressing the City's social service delivery service system to the breaking point.

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.

Help Us Return the Mayor's Lump of Coal

Tomorrow morning at 10 AM, Neighborhood Networks members will be gathering to give back to the Mayor the big lump of coal that he's delivered to the people of this City by way of library closings. Along with the coal, we'll have hundreds of statements and signatures from people around the City who can't believe how he's trying to ruin this season, and seasons to come by closing our libraries. If you'd like to personally take a lump of coal back to the Mayor, come meet us at 10 AM at the Northeast Corner of City Hall.

Who knows, Scrooge changed his mind; so may the Mayor. And if you'd like to sign our petition, and leave a few words for the Mayor, there's still time. Just go here:http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/NN_savethebranches/index.html

Neighborhood Networks' Town Hall Monday . . . Why It Matters to All of Us

Neighborhood Networks' Town Hall Meeting: "We Are the Change We Need" is almost here.

Date: Monday, November 17, from 7-9 PM.

Place: First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street

More detail about the conference is down the page. But first let me say a little about why this is such an important event.

It's a tumultuous time. Change is in the air, and there's much more to come. All of us who read or write on this blog want to be agents of that change and we want it to move in the direction of peace and justice.

In the last week we've been debating big issues, some that affect every person on earth, others that affect every Philadelphia kid who may have no place to swim next summer.

One question we haven't discussed -- although we have in the past -- is how do we organize ourselves effectively to influence the change.

The next phase

It's barely 48 hours since the exaltation of Obama's win. But the mainstream effort to curtail Obama's progressive instincts has already begun, with a wide variety of politicians and pundits opining as on cue that the new president must go slowly, depend on Republican support, and delay perhaps indefinitely, anything that represents a real change of course. As progressives we have to fight that narrative tooth and nail.

Many of us put enormous energy into the fight to elect Obama. We owe it to all that we care about to fight like hell to make his Presidency a transformative one, not one that gets us all stuck in the middle of a potholed road. And so we must model ourselves after our new president. We must all become community organizers.

What we learned in this budget round.

We learned some good things.

We learned that Mayor Nutter is not the complete ideologue he often seemed to be while in Council, on the issue of business taxes. Then he tried to mandate into law the complete abolition of the main business tax, the BPT. He did this repeatedly and relentlessly, and fortunately he failed. Now, in his first budget as Mayor, he proposed much more moderate BPT cuts, abolishing the gross receipts portion over 8 years, and cutting the net income portion by 12% over the same period of time.

Even more encouraging, when the Mayor learned that the City had a revenue problem due to the recession, he proposed that Council slow the BPT cuts even more. Council followed his recommendation, so now it will take ten years to reach the Mayor’s target, rather than the 8 years he initially suggested.

Cohen tax rebate is in jeopardy tomorrow

It looks like the whole tax package will be voted on by City Council tomorrow. The deal that's been cut will apparently slow the elimination of the gross receipts tax to a 10 rather than 8 year timetable, and also slow cuts to the net income portion of the BPT. To accomplish that, and offer various goodies to Councilmembers, the Mayor will apparently spend down virtually the entire City fund balance now at approximately $200 million.

The other economy the Mayor is more than willing to make is to ditch the one part of the tax code that makes it marginally progressive, the wage tax rebate program pushed through by the late Councilman David Cohen at the end of his life. In deference to Councilmembers who chafe at voting for outright repeal, the Mayor is apparently proposing a one year postponement. That's a tactic that has already been used twice. If Council goes for it again, that will be a signal that it intends to let it slide forever into infinity. It is pretty outrageous that on a day that Nutter made it a point to appear at a press conference with John Edwards lauding an effort to fight poverty by, among other things, expanding the earned income tax credit, he is pushing an effort to deep six its Philly equivalent. While pushing tax cuts for Ford, Apple, Budweiser and most of the rest of the Fortune 500.

Wilson Goode is rumored to be unwilling to let this go without a fight. If you think it plainly immoral to let working people hang while giving tax breaks to multinational corporations, call your Councilperson now, and let them know. And, if this is really getting to you, come to Council tomorrow at 9:30 or so, and pigeonhole your favorite representative for a few moments while they still have a chance to do the right thing.

Crusading Inky Goes Over the Top

If there were a Pulitzer Prize awarded for callous stupidity, the Inquirer came up with a runaway winner in its Sunday editorial on City tax cuts.

As far as the idiotorial (sic?) is concerned, the Business Privilege tax cuts proposed by the Mayor in his budget simply must be enacted. Nevertheless, and horror of horrors, it seems that “there is some talk at City Hall of halting the tax cuts.” Imagine! People talk of such things! At City Hall!

Yes, the Inkies admit, “Nutter and Council need to plug holes in the budget that opened in recent weeks.” Yes, the Nutter budget proposed “smart new investments that should be retained in some form – for police and fire protection, parks, the community college, and more.”

See the Superstars tomorrow

Neighborhood Networks Conference "Getting Out the Progressive Vote in 2008 and Beyond" is tomorrow at Drexel's Disque Hall. Go here to register: http://www.phillynn.org/conference/conf.html or, if you're an impulse person, just come on down when that impulse strikes you tomorrow morning.

Why should you come? There are many reasons. But here I'll concentrate on our all-star lineup of speakers, to wit:

Mayor Nutter
Seth Williams
Anne Dicker
Tony Payton
Jesse Brown
Arshad Hasan, National Director, Democracy for America
Rodnie Jamison
Daniel Hunter, Founder, Casino-Free Philadelphia

There is a fee for attendance, but no one will be turned away. Oh, and btw, if you come, you'll learn a lot about how to organize your neighborhood as well. Don't you want to do that? I bet you do.

If you like Mike Nutter, Seth Williams or Anne Dicker, then Drexel U on Saturday March 29 is the Place for You.

Why, you ask? Because the Mayor, Seth and Anne are all going to be lead speakers at Neighborhood Networks' "Getting Out the Progressive Vote" Conference at that place and on that date. Attending is easy. NN will provide a low cost continental breakfast and box lunch. All you have to do is go to NN's website at phillynn.org., register right there online, and then come to Drexel on the 29th.

This Conference is important not only for the perspective we'll get from Philly's present and future leaders. That will be great to have. But this will not be just a listening Conference; we've got serious business to do in turning this country around, and we're going to get right to that work on March 29.

Democrats are engaged in a pitched battle in PA right now to determine who our Presidential nominee will be. But the main thing we all have to worry about is keeping George John McBush's finger away from the trigger, his veto pen in his pocket, and his nominees off the Supreme Court. And, of course, the only way to do that is to beat him in November. Our special assignment, if we choose to accept it, is to beat him in Pennsylvania. If we don't succeed in that mission, he will be President, no matter what happens in the April 22 primary here, or in Ohio or Florida or Michigan at any time. It's as simple as that.

Two candidate forums tonight

Neighborhood Networks is holding two candidate forums tonight for candidates running in the Spring primary. The first will be from 6-8 PM at Center in the Park in Germantown (at Vernon Park, just north of Chelten Avenue off of Germantown Avenue) and will feature candidates running in the 198th legislative District covering parts of Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Rosita Youngblood, the incumbent, and challengers Byron Davis and Arthur Barlow have been invited to speak. Byron Davis' has filled out NN's candidate questionnaire which you can find here: http://www.phillynn.org/elections/default.php?a=candidates

Process matters

City Council deliberates on the Mayor's proposed budget every year in a tedious, but important, hearing process that stretches out over two months. This year's hearings begin on Tuesday, February 26 with a look at the proposed Five Year Plan. On Wednesday, Council will take up the tax bills that have been introduced, including the proposed changes in the BPT and the wage tax. The following week there will be a hearing on the capital budget. After that, each week for the following six weeks (with a one week break) all the City Departments will appear, one after the other, to make their cases for whatever it is that the Mayor wants for these Departments. The last of the scheduled hearings is to take place April 15. Two weeks later it will be the turn of the School District, whose leaders will testify on April 28 and 29.

The Budget Issue is Not about Nutter, it's about Nutter's Choices

I've been wrestling with the Mayor's new budget for a few days now. One thing I've figured out; it's not right to think about it in terms of what should reasonably be expected from Michael Nutter. In that framework I might be relatively pleased; when he was a Council member he worked hard to abolish the Business Privilege Tax in toto; now he proposes abolishing "only" the Gross Receipts part. Furthermore, he proposes to cut the rate of the Net Income portion of the BPT just 7%. Neither the Gross Receipts abolition, nor the Net Income cut is immediate; they would both be phased in over a period of years. And Nutter is also proposing an immediate 25% increase in the Parking Tax -- a relatively progressive tax -- which will make up a substantial part of the lost BPT revenue.

So as someone who thinks cutting business taxes should be a very low priority, if one at all, I could feel OK about all this compared to what might have been.

But personalizing the budget proposal is the wrong approach. The important question is not how to grade Nutter. The important question is this: are the choices the Mayor made in the budget the right ones for our City? My answer to that has got to be no.

Elect Jesse Brown in the Eighth

Council should be improved next term with the addition of Maria Quinones Sanches, and Curtis Jones. But there's a chance to improve it still more, by electing Jesse Brown in the 8th Councilmanic District on Tuesday. Brown has been picking up steam in the last ten days, garnering the endorsements of both the Daily News and the Inquirer. In light of those endorsements, one of Brown's opponents, Jim Foster, has dropped out, calling on his backers to support Brown as the most viable candidate in the race against incumbent Donna Reed Miller. From the start Jesse has had the support of Irv Ackelsberg, YPP's endorsed candidate in last May's primary election.

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