Pa. lawmaker challenges legality of Nutter's tax plan
May 30, 2012By Holly Otterbein, for It's Our Money
Pennsylvania Rep. Michael O'Brien says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's plan to raise more money from property taxes after this year's reassessment isn't just controversial. He thinks it's illegal.
O'Brien, D-Philadelphia, interprets a 2006 law as barring the city from collecting more in property taxes after the reassessment than before it.
At a state hearing Wednesday, O'Brien asked Lewis Rosman, Nutter's legislative affairs director, what the city would do if he's right.
"What's your backup plan?" said O'Brien.
"I'm personally not familiar with provisions that you're referring to," said Rosman. "We'd have to have our city attorneys look at it."
"I suggest you do," said O'Brien. "Because, quite honestly gentlemen, Houston, we have a problem."
City finance director Rob Dubow says that the law department doesn't believe the provision applies to Philadelphia.
This showdown took place at a state hearing for a gaming revenue bill, which was introduced by O'Brien and state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia. Now, more than $86 million collected annually from gambling is used to reduce Philadelphia's wage tax.
But O'Brien and Youngblood want to give that money to the school district instead. They reject Nutter's proposal to raise an additional $94 million for the schools through property taxes.
Youngblood also complained at the hearing that Nutter doesn't talk to state lawmakers about this and other issues.
"He don't talk to us in Harrisburg," she said. "And that is part of the problem. You should talk to the members from Philadelphia."
Dubow says that Nutter makes trips to Harrisburg regularly. He also argued that O'Brien and Youngblood's bill would force the city to cut services or raise the wage tax. He calls that a job killer.