City Services

Tax Policy (Part II) It’s About Life and Death

So the question for liberals/progressives (pick your label or Glenn Beck will pick it for you) isn’t: “should we pay attention to business taxes in Philly.” It should be “can we afford not to pay attention to business taxes in Philly?”

We need to face this stark truth: business tax rates in Philly are now a life or death issue. The state is about to take a big knife to city subsidies, and the federal government will be doing the same. There are just no other ways to raise replacement funds that are even slightly progressive (as that term is used in tax lingo) –- other than raising business taxes. As I noted in my Friday post, the wage and sales taxes are both capped under state law, and the real estate tax is applied in an utterly arbitrary and capricious manner. Furthermore, the real estate tax just went up 10% last year and a further increase would face massive, justifiable resistance.

So that leaves us with the Business Privilege Tax. We need to get to know it better.

It is always a good thing when our government works well

About 24 hours have passed since the massivee snow storm. 72 hours until the next one begins. I am not sure if I am surprised, or what, but in my neighborhood Philadelphia, and Philadelphia government did its just really, really well.

  • On Friday, everyone parked, and stayed off the streets on Saturday.
  • On Saturday, most people shoveled their sidewalks, and did so pretty quickly. And the plows were going pretty quickly. I walked to Center City on Saturday afternoon, and just about every sidewalk was clear, and every major street was plowed.
  • Then, at some point yesterday, even the sidestreets (except for the very small ones) saw plows rolling down, too.

When I was a kid, and we got out thirty inches of snow, the city shut down for a week. Now? Take away the snow banks, and you would never know what happened. We are in a period of recession-driven, shrinking revenues. Paying the millions it took to clean up so thoroughly like this is not simply a mandatory response, because at times in the past, we have been told that a through clean up costs too much money. Instead, it was a conscious decision made by the Mayor, which will have ramifications on the bottom line of our budget.

But, this kind of thing is worth it for two reasons. First, on a very basic level, a week of snow-misery sucks, and, it is nice to not to have to deal with it. And second, and most important, it is good for people to see city government functioning, and functioning well.

There are going to be a lot of pitched battles over the next year- from the budget to union contracts- and it will force the city into another year of our municipal budgeting nightmare- seemingly without the inclusiveness that we saw the last time. As we think about cutting services, or better targeting some taxes (like the BRT change proposed by Stan, and studied by Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez and Green), or whatever else we consider, it is heartening to head into the process with a clear demonstration that in one of its most basic functions, the city’s government can perform really, really well.

Dear Mayor Nutter: Don't Close Our Libraries

These are letters that kids in Fishtown sent to Mayor Nutter, asking him not to close their library.

There really isn't much more to say.

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