Who Cares What Non-Voters Think About a Commuter Tax?

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Generally in agreement with Stephen Albert about Scranton’s fake new “recovery plan”, but one thing I don’t understand is his dismissal of the commuter tax on the grounds that it’s unpopular with non-residents. Non-residents, by definition, don’t vote in the city. City politicians have no responsibility to them. And if they don’t want to pay the commuter tax, then they have the option of avoiding it by moving inside the city limits – which, by the way, would save them additional money on transportation.

It would be nice if counties were the smallest unit of local government, and local politicians had to take a more regional view of the consequences of their decisions. But that’s not the system we have, and on balance, the prevailing every-town-for-itself approach is a really raw deal for older core cities like Scranton. I see no reason for city politicians to be wringing their hands about what non-city voters think about their tax plan.

Mark Price sends us to David Falchek’s article for some other good points about the commuter tax:

While the tax will be decided through the courts, support for the levy seems strong among city residents, who pay for police and fire protection and infrastructure. Support drops off at the city limits. “I live here, and I stuck with the city,” said Cindy Dermont, a Scranton resident and downtown office worker. “So I’ve been paying the city’s property tax and income tax all along. Having commuters pay toward the city sounds good to me.”

Michael Pagano, Ph.D., dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, would say that Ms. Dermont has a right to want a commuter tax. Those who work in Scranton benefit from the services of the city – roads, infrastructure, common areas, sidewalks, police and fire – without paying for them. A commuter tax, he said, is a way to get the people who use services to support them rather than having city taxpayers subsidize the costs of commuters having jobs. “The people who moved to the suburbs for lower taxes don’t take into consideration that they are still using city services – because someone else has covered the cost of their having a job,” he said. “Unless that changes, people will continue to make rational decisions that screw the city where they work and leave remaining city taxpayers with a growing burden.”

This entry was posted in Budget.

6 Responses to Who Cares What Non-Voters Think About a Commuter Tax?

  1. Tom Borthwick says:

    The only real issue is the necessity for state approval before implementation. Many local legislators might not want blowback from constituencies outside Scranton.

    • The real issue…and the point I was trying to make…was that city leaders WILL end up caving in to pressure from commuters on the tax and it will most likely be repealed. Scranton’s leaders lack the political will to see this through. The actual validity of the comuter tax? That’s an entirely different discussion.

      A lack of courage brought this mess on, and the non-recovery plan is just another example of spinelessness in action.

      • Jon says:

        Fair enough, but maybe there are some people who do want to vote for a commuter tax and are committed to not flinching under pressure from nonvoters.

    • Jon says:

      Ah that’s true – can only do a commuter tax for pensions right? They’re also counting on a sales tax bill too. Is that the 1% county sales tax plan Harrisburg’s been kicking around for a while?

  2. Peter Handl says:

    Democrats would like to tax most working man and women out of this city. You will keep the d the many people who do not pay taxes anyway. Corporations and small companies are leaving Scranton. The housing is already in shambles.
    At this pace, Scranton revenue will decrease to the point of bankruptcy. Just keep raising existing taxes and figure out more new taxes to make sure that your tax base will continue disappear. Congratulation for a job well done!
    Maybe a “Scranton Tea Party” is in order, for Taxation Without Reparation, look at our streets, pot holes, bridges and ugly blacktop curbs.
    Oh yeah, sorry, I almost forgot we have brand new expensive buses running empty all over the city.
    Regards, Peter Handl

    • Jon says:

      I’m not a big fan of raising the existing taxes. I’ve been arguing on here for taxing land instead, since land doesn’t move. There is no option for tax evasion with a land tax.