With an effort afoot in Harrisburg to raise a significant amount of money for the struggling Philadelphia School District, City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez opted against asking her colleagues today to vote on a bill that would increase a tax on businesses to get the schools more money.
"Harrisburg is very close to what would be a historic, one-time serious allocation of school resources to the city of Philadelphia," said Quinones-Sanchez. "And I do not want to jeopardize and give anyone an excuse who is not looking out for the best interest of Philadelphia, not to do what is their obligation to do which is appropriately fund the Philadelphia school district."
Quinones-Sanchez' bill would have increased the use-and-occupancy tax on businesses to raise $30 million for schools. Today was her last shot at calling the bill up for a vote since it is Council's last session. Some members were concerned about the impact her measure would have on businesses, especially since Council increased the tax last year.
Rob Wonderling, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce lauded Quinones-Sanchez for her leadership, but said there needs to be a broader discussion about long term solutions to help the school district.
"Although well-intentioned it would only address a small portion," Wonderling said. "Let's work on a comprehensive strategy."
Quinones-Sanchez was pushing her bill as an alternative to Mayor Nutter's proposals which included an increase to the liquor-by-the-drink tax and a new $2 per pack cigarette tax. Council approved the cigarette tax last week and the measure to increase the tax on booze never made it out of a Council committee. Both measures require state authorization and its unclear the city will ever be able to enact the cigarette tax which would raise $46 million.
"It's Harrisburg's turn," Quinones-Sanchez.
Meanwhile another portion of Quinones-Sanchez' proposal which gives 9,000 small businesses a $2,000 exemption was approved.