Smoke, mirrors, and taxes

by pkerkstra on March 30, 2011

Nutter and City Council pull a fast one. In a way, I’m kind of impressed. My inaugural column for the Inquirer. Excerpt:

Philadelphia politics is better known for its blunt force than its sophistication. This time, though, Nutter and Council were uncannily convincing in their conniving.

The problem isn’t the tax hike itself. Good arguments can be made for permanently raising property taxes. But instead of making a case on the merits, Nutter and Council seem to deliberately confuse the issue.

For cover, they are using a pending switch to a new method for assessing properties, scheduled for 2012. A new system really is necessary, as the old one is unfair and inaccurate. But any fix that rights those wrongs will lead to many taxpayers’ owing more, even as other taxpayers owe less.

For a long time, political players like Nutter proclaimed that the switch would be revenue-neutral, meaning the city itself wouldn’t make any extra cash.

To win acceptance, they wanted to say, we’re doing this for the sake of accuracy and fairness, not to raise revenue.

Now, though, they seem to be figuring something else entirely, like: We’re going to get pilloried when we redo assessments, so we might as well go ahead and get some real money.

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