Philly House Members Show Strength

There are 110 Republicans in the PA State House and only 93 Democrats. Often that simple Republican majority is enough to move the conservative agenda forward, but some times and some bills call for bipartisan support.

A disciplined and principled minority Democratic caucus could, in such situations, be quite powerful. And, within that 93-member Democratic bloc, almost half of the members come from Philadelphia and Allegheny County alone. Urban Dems are in the majority of a very powerful minority party voting bloc. Unfortunately party discipline has never been a Democratic strength, and potential caucus-wide, as well as urban-specific, strength is often squandered.

That’s why the news that the Philly state legislative delegation over the course of the last month, made the rounds of city neighborhoods (at NE High, South Philly High, West Philly High, City Council chambers and more) on a kind of listening tour about tax reform proposals is pretty cool.

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Listening tours are not the usual way of doing business among state house members and I am sort of impressed that our Philadelphia delegation has taken to the time to actually go out and try to listen to their constituents. I think state house members are worried that the promise of property tax reform (and/or a reduced wage tax in Philly) made by Governor Rendell at the beginning of his term, is slipping away and it is state Democrats who will suffer the wrath of angry voters the most.

Between the Governor’s property tax plan, the rival House and Senate proposals, the threat of full valuation in Philly, the impact of ten-year tax abatements and more, Philadelphians have a lot of tax proposals on their hands. For city residents, more and less equitable taxes seem likely. That’s apparently why the tour was put on.

In Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chair, Dwight Evans’ words:

As the General Assembly continues to debate local tax reform, it is critical that the interests of homeowners and wage earners in Philadelphia be considered. These listening tours are intended to both inform as well as give Philadelphians a direct voice in the process.

The House went back into session last week to debate property tax reform and the last city-wide forum has already been held. In the grand scheme of things, the listening sessions may not have changed much. However, I am glad to see the state House Dems from Philadelphia making better use of their media and community draw to more fully flesh out understanding of the issues going in the Capitol that affect Philadelphians.

And, as deals and concessions are made on property taxes, including a horrific plan to make food and clothing liable to sales tax, I hope the Philadelphia delegation continues to stand strong in favor of Philadlephians.

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