Poll: Philadelphians really don't like taxes

Posted: October 10, 2013

NEWS FLASH: Philadelphians do not want more taxes.

That might seem obvious, but it really is news.

According to a poll released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Philly residents have shifted in their belief about a fundamental question regarding government: Would you rather have more taxes and more services, or less taxes and less services?

Last year, 49 percent of respondents asked for more taxes and services, while 42 percent favored less. This year, 41 percent wanted more, and 50 percent wanted less.

Larry Eichel, director of Pew's Philadelphia program, said the shift likely has something to do with anger over the school district's funding crisis. The tax questions were asked in the same late-summer survey that resulted in recent Pew reports highlighting unrest over the state of public education, the performance of city officials and the direction of the city in general.

"This sort of sour mood about the city and certainly about city government - we think, certainly one cause is the school situation," Eichel said.

Additionally, about half of those surveyed said they were unaware of the Actual Value Initiative, Mayor Nutter's property-tax reform effort. And most of those who are aware of AVI think it makes the tax system less fair than the old system.

Only 52 percent of the 1,605 residents surveyed said they had heard of AVI, in which the city reassessed every property in an attempt to correct a widely criticized system of real-estate taxes. Of those who knew about AVI, only 26 percent said it makes the tax system more fair, and 44 percent said it was making it less fair.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said the result of the policy was more important than that of a poll.

"The numbers that stand out for me are the large numbers of property holders in Philadelphia who will see their taxes either go down or [stay] at current levels," he said.

The study also asked residents whether they favor lowering Philly's unusually high wage-tax burden, which advocates say is a key to unlocking business growth here. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would like to see that happen.

But what about replacing that revenue with an increased property-tax burden? Not so fast. Fifty-nine percent said they don't want to see property taxes raised for that purpose.

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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