Some Philadelphia lawmakers want to redirect gaming revenue to city schools

Posted: May 10, 2012

As Philadelphia school officials were pleading with City Council for more money Tuesday, a group of Philadelphia state legislators was pushing a bill to redirect gaming revenue to the schools.

Roughly $86 million a year generated from gambling now goes toward reducing the city wage tax for people who live or work in Philadelphia.

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D., Phila.) and a handful of city Democrats proposed using that money to fund the district for the next five years with the goal of averting the threat of not opening some schools in the fall.

The proposal comes as a rebuke to Mayor Nutter's solution to the district's financial crisis - taking in more tax revenue for schools through the planned citywide property reassessment.

Youngblood said that plan would only result in higher property taxes that would sting residents already struggling to make ends meet.

The city's wage tax is 3.92 percent for residents and 3.49 percent for nonresidents. Youngblood said that more than $30 million of the wage-tax relief benefits suburbanites who work in the city.

"Our proposal keeps all the funding that is slated for Philadelphia in Philadelphia," she said. "It's a no-brainer."

Rep. Michael H. O'Brien (D., Phila.) called Nutter's solution "the sky is falling hysteria" and urged support for the House bill.

Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the administration would oppose the bill.

"Were legislation like this to become law, it would open up an $86.3 million hole in the city's budget," he said. "We would either have to increase the wage tax for residents and nonresidents by about a half-percentage point, or, in the alternative, we'd face unacceptably deep cuts in basic services."

Whether the legislation moves forward remains a big question mark. Republicans control both chambers, and city wage-tax cuts have been a priority for suburban Republicans for years. A spokesman for House Republicans said the caucus was not yet aware of the bill.


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.

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