Friday, February 12, 2016

Death of taxes?

A new poll of Philadelphia's view of taxes shows a decline in willingness to pay for services. But a new study of taxes in all states suggests possible room for more taxes to fund state needs.

Death of taxes?


Okay, so nobody likes paying more taxes.

This is why politicians pledge not to raise taxes.

And despite all of our tax and spend issues, government shutdowns, dwindling resources, infrastructure needs and so on, the pattern appears to be holding if not spreading.

A new Pew poll of Philly residents shows a decline in support of more taxes for better services. The poll says 50 percent of city folks want less taxes and therefore less services (up 8 points from last year).

This is really no suprise given the apparent level of faith in city government (or all government), though the idea of less services in Philly conjures up thoughts of Beirut or Detroit.

But a new Tax Foundation report on taxes in all states might provide some cover for policymakers and pols looking to solve statewide problems related, for example, to education and transportation.

The report shows that when it comes to major taxes (corporate, individual income, sales, unemployment insurance and property taxes), PA is right in the middle.

We rank 24th among the states.The higher the number, the higher the taxes.

(You can see a map and a chart showing all state rankings by scrolling down here.)

This is a pretty good ranking. I mean being in the middle of the tax pack seems somehow fair. And it's especially good for a northeastern state. Three of our neighbors are among the 10 highest-taxed states. Maryland is 41st, New Jersey 49th and New York 50th. (Of course tax-averse Delaware ranks 13th.)

And when you look at which taxes are highest here you see that we like to tax business and property. Our corporate tax ranking is 46th, our unemployment insurance tax ranks 39th and our property tax ranking is 43rd.

But our broadest taxes, the individual income tax and the sales tax, rank 16th and 19th, respectively.

So if, say, somebody wanted to provide more services statewide a case could be made that there's room for bumps in sales and/or income taxes.

But, of course, if we're looking for national balance one could also make a case that we should reduce biz taxes and property taxes. Which is why we're stuck. Which is why we have declining services. Which is what conjures up thoughts of Beirut or Detroit.



Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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