Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A step toward a commuter tax, a step toward victory

PG coverage: A step toward a commuter tax City Council voted yesterday to lay the groundwork for a commuter wage tax.

The victory, in this headline, is NOT with the pending arrival of the commuter tax. I feel that the commuter tax is wrong. It isn't prudent. There are many other ways to solve these problems and the commuter tax is not anything near an ideal solution.

The victory goes to the fact that every Pittsburgher, except those in Bethel Park and Penn Hills, (see below), now has some skin in this fight.

In the past, it has always been the conventional thinking that those in the city are on their own. Those in the suburban areas are on their own. An iron-curtin has kept the city and the suburban folks away from each other.

The people in the burbs have had a "hands-off attitude" about the political life in the city. This is about to end now that the city's hands are reaching into their wallets.

A few people on city council want to tax the suburban workers. They want a bail out, and the tab for the bail out, in their opinion, should be the responsibility of those who live beyond the reaches of the city's borders.

Wake up suburban Pittsburgh. What happens in the city, its folly and all, is now your business.

If you live in Penn Hills or B.P., have no fear. You're not going to pay the city anything. The taxes in those suburban locations are already at the limit.

If you live elsewhere, your taxes are about to shift. The income tax is going to go up in your neck of the woods so that the money doesn't flow into the city. You might expect a slight dip in the property tax to offset the new funds from the other source.

Meanwhile, the city is going to be a grand looser in one instance, and a grand victor in another. In time, say two or three years, the suburban municipal governments are going to do the tax shifting and the city is going to be left without any viable revenue stream from the commuter tax. It will be worthless.

On the upside, the city is going to win big as the suburban folks have grounds to entertain, study, donate, politic and energize the political landscape in the city.

For example, four years ago I was on the agenda as an invited speaker to a candidate's night in a suburban location. I understood clearly that none of the people in the audience would get to vote for me. However, I wanted to go and speak to that audience. Even three minutes would be worth the trip and the evening I told the organizers. At first, they said fine. Then they called and took me off of the agenda a day before the meeting. "We don't talk about city politics here," I was told.
Guess what. I'm back. And, now you will.

If you are associated with any suburban political group, of any party, I'm willing, able and eager to get invites to come to speak to your groups. The city needs you to care and be aware. And, the city is about to start taking your money.

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