Letters to the Editor

Posted: July 07, 2012

Tax increase?

After City Council voted to approve a 2012-13 budget, Councilman Curtis Jones said, "I think we shared the pain. ... we don't like going around raising taxes for anyone." I'm sure most citizens believe that Council members don't enjoy raising taxes, but the question has to be: Why do they always have to raise taxes?

The 3.6 percent property tax increase is the third increase in as many years. Property owners in Philadelphia will be paying 17 percent more in taxes than in 2009. And the two previous property tax hikes were supposed to be temporary, but in the realm of urban finances, that's a fantasy.

Asking homeowners to shell out even more in taxes is outrageous with delinquent property owners owing the city $518 million in back taxes. That's more than half a billion dollars. If the city collected half this amount, the School District, which depends mainly on property taxes to operate, could be made solvent, with money to spare.

Property owners should not have to pay one more cent in taxes until city officials responsible for tax collections have demonstrated in a measurable way a coordinated, aggressive effort to reduce significantly the disgraceful property tax delinquency that has accumulated over at least three decades.

Jack Butler, Philadelphia

Mayor's choice

Now that the city's budget has passed and the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) is on hold, it's time to make something clear: AVI is not what makes property taxes unaffordable. The problem is the ever-growing amount of taxes that Mayor Nutter wishes to extract from property owners.

The year before Nutter became mayor, it was generally understood that if AVI was to be implemented in a revenue-neutral way, the mill rate would be around 1 percent or less. While for some this still would have resulted in a significant tax increase, overall increases would have been far less dramatic than the 1.8 percent mill rate bandied about this year.

The mayor must decide whether he wants to keep the higher taxes he's enacted over the last three years or sacrifice some spending in order to implement AVI next year with as little damage to the struggling middle class as possible. He can't have both.

Mike Seidenberg, Philadelphia, mike.seidenberg@verizon.net

True anxiety

Joe DiStefano (Inquirer, June 26) tells of the "anxiety" over taxes expressed by a sampling of financial advisers ("Rich fear tax hikes, four more years of Obama," June 26). The fear is, if President Obama is reelected, the high-net-worth people will have their substantial tax advantage over other people trimmed to (say) a rate proportionably equal to other people's (read, you and me.)

Before we shed a tear over their anxiety, please remember that their money anxiety comes ahead of our anxiety over being unemployed, feeding children who are getting thinner, and resisting home foreclosure.

If you, middle-class voter, continue to vote for politicians whose interests are aligned with these high-net-worth people and who are not now, and never were, aligned with your interests, then you have only yourself to blame for unemployment, hunger, and homelessness.

Presley R. Brown, Langhorne, brow294@msn.com

Pandering

The latest instance of Congress kicking the can down the road is its extension of the 3.4 percent interest rate for student loans ("Bill on highways and students loans set for House vote," June 29).

I am sympathetic to those who bear the burden of the high cost of education, but I primarily identify with the taxpayer who subsidizes these now government-controlled loans, particularly in light of the alarmingly high rate of default.

We currently have a government of stopgap action, one that provides temporary extensions of benefits to keep people happy in their entitlement state. This is seen not only in Congress' action on student loans, but in temporary tax-break extensions that benefit wage-earners and investors.

Minimizing the student loan rate was important to both parties, which didn't wish to alienate families of college students four months before an important election. It is, by definition, special-interest politics, and it does not bode well for a nation that refuses to get a handle on its burgeoning debt.

Oren M. Spiegler, Upper St. Clair

Heroics needed

I don't believe that the decisions of the Corbett administration are based on ethical and moral indifference ("Pa. cuts to needy make no sense," Sunday). I believe the administration and the legislature know in their hearts what the right decisions were and that the adequate support of the most needy was really the right answer.

Their problem is a complete lack of political courage. It would take a truly heroic political act to revoke their no-tax pledge, and face down lobbyists, the tea party, and oil companies in order to raise the revenues to provide the safety net for the elderly, children, and those trying to overcome personal disasters.

Perhaps there will be a miracle in Harrisburg. But don't hold your breath waiting for legislative heroics.

Bob Brennan, Broomall

Cutting aid

In 1982, I was alone, very ill, unable to work, and without resources. I was living in an apartment in Germantown that rented for $140 per month. I was very lucky that I was able to get $17 in food stamps and $149 in cash payments from welfare at that time.

I remember standing in long lines with other desperate people to get my benefits, and noting the patience and good behavior of the many children who waited with their mothers or fathers.

Recently, many temporarily disabled people were informed that they would no longer have this resource. Are these people doomed to death or homelessness because they found themselves alone and sick? People who think they don't know someone who could suffer such a fate are fooling themselves. Meanwhile, there's talk of a tax break for oil companies.

Marian Rooney, Philadelphia

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