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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Scranton's Commuter Tax Hearing (Today)

Today the City of Scranton's leaders will attempt to convince judges that they have made every possible budget cut, trimmed every expense imaginable and taxed city taxpayers to the brink SUCH THAT they should now be allowed to tax non-residents who work in the city.

This is, as I've noted before, ridiculous.  And I make this statement as a resident and taxpayer of the City of Scranton.

The best website/blog I've found for information on the city's farce (known as its budget) is Consolidated IZA (click to link), which provides far more detail than I would ever attempt here.  However I just can't help but offer a few opinions of my own.

So what have the city's leaders done to get Scranton's fiscal house in order?

  • Provided multi-year contracts to unionized public safety workers that guarantees them a raise each year.  Note that when my employer was trying to cut costs, they eliminated raises for everyone.  Then again my employer has to actually balance a budget.
  • Proposed raises ON TOP OF other financial awards (from bond proceeds) for city lawyers.  
  • Somehow transported themselves into a magical land where TAX EXEMPT organizations should be paying TAXES to the tune of over a million dollars a year in fantasy revenue.  Note to City Council President Janet Evans:  "TAX EXEMPT" means that they "DON'T HAVE TO PAY TAXES".  
  • Continued to kick the ball down the street with a DRAMATICALLY UNDERFUNDED pension plan.

Not to be outdone, city hall employees continue to work as if nothing bad at all were happening.  Hell, public  safety workers GENEROUSLY agreed to reduce an arbitration award from $30 million to JUST $15 million.  They do realize that the city doesn't actually have the money, right?  That's okay, as they can probably arrange for another loan from union affiliated bank at an interest rate akin to what someone with bad credit pays for a used Dodge Caravan at a "buy here/pay here" car sales establishment.  Tell me, who really is running Scranton these days?

So yes, the hearing is today.  Here's what I am hoping for:  No to the commuter tax.  While I agree that commuters benefit from Scranton's infrastructure, the simple fact is this - they didn't create Scranton's fiscal mess, and as a result they shouldn't be required to help fix it.  Period.  A "no" today could hopefully lead to the only real solution to Scranton's financial mess:  bankruptcy, where someone without political motivations will make the tough decisions (including opening up labor contracts) that actually will solve the city's problems.

Mark my words:  as "yes" on the commuter tax only forestalls Scranton's eventual bankruptcy.

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