On Scranton’s Commuter Tax
August 3, 2014

Oh, Lordy-loo.  From the abyssal void in which I lost my blogging self, I emerge to tackle the greatest issue facing our great County: Scranton’s (gulp) Commuter Tax!

Nobody likes taxes, period.  And nobody likes taxation without representation.  But wait, don’t we elect the people who write up these laws that allow for commuter taxes?  Never you mind that.

Ah, the hell with it.  I won’t be snarky.  Listen.  It’s the state’s fault.  Simple as that.  Why, you ask?  A ton of reasons.

  • State policy encourages business flight from the City.  Shall we level another mountain in Jessup and build another business/industrial park?  Taxes are lower there, businesses are incentivized to leave, the City is required to raise taxes in order to cover the gap.  Scranton has the infrastructure to support business and industrial development, but there isn’t any guidance or policy from the state that pushes development into the city.
  • Townships and boroughs can rely on the state police for their services.  They have volunteer fire departments, rather than paid, professional ones.  That’s a lot of savings cities don’t get.
  • The State can take action to combine all of the seemingly endless government pension systems across the Commonwealth, which would help solvency not just in Scranton, but everywhere.
  • Since State law allows for non-profits to avoid taxes, the State should be reimbursing Cities the lost revenue.  Currently, taxpayers simply absorb it through increases to cover the gap.

Some think that blaming Harrisburg is a cop-out and I understand this.  Scranton hasn’t helped its fiscal nightmare for a good 3 decades.  But being hamstrung by a State that cares little for cities certainly hasn’t helped.

In fact, the state is actively attempting to hurt the city with the full support of our very own State Senator, John Blake.  Over 40 municipalities statewide have had this commuter tax for years.  As soon as Scranton needs it to get its house in order, nope.  Nada.  The hell with all y’all.  I’ll be writing in Cthulu come November, because why vote for a lesser evil?

Regardless, it’s more than that.  The County can’t function without the City.  Workers here do indeed use our roads.  If there is an accident, our cops.  Our fire department.  Our infrastructure supports the major hospitals of the region.  The universities.

The temporary tax, at .75%, isn’t much to help a beleaguered city.  People in this county should want to see the city succeed.  This isn’t a competition where one borough steals business from another with KOZs and lower taxes.    We are all in this together.  Or at least we should be.

Instead, I keep hearing about boycotting city businesses.  That really won’t be helpful, because, aside from harming the innocent, that will simply mean the city is out that much more money in things like business and mercantile taxes.

To the credit of the new administration, they’ve been trying to get the house in order.  This is one step in that direction.  The state hasn’t acted to aid us, so we’re taking what avenues we have available.  We are trying.  And it would be wonderful if people supported us.

By the way: It’s good to be back.

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1 comment

  1. Tom, I think you’ve done an admirable job of blaming Scranton’s woes on the state. The reality though is that the state wasn’t responsible for the city’s budgets not being worth the paper they were written on for decades…that fault is squarely with the city’s elected leadership.

    More thoughts here: