Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Editorial: Bold Ideas to Fix the Budget

From the Daily News editorial:

Editorial: Bold Ideas to Fix the Budget

From the Daily News editorial:

1. Fast-track full valuation. Correcting the city's fractured and unfair property-tax system is as politically appealing as wrestling alligators. But it's crazy and irresponsible not to: Right now, the rich generally underpay and the poor overpay. Correcting the system, discussed for years, is supposed to be revenue-neutral, but it won't be. But it will be fair.

2. While we're at it, raise property taxes. Ours are traditionally low - mainly for reasons having to do with No. 1. We could temporarily raise the tax. Forty percent of any increase would go to helping fill the shortfall. (The schools get the rest.)

3. Close the courts. The city pays $115 million for the First Judicial District even though the state is supposed to pick up the tab. Why shouldn't the mayor just announce that the city has to close the courts because it no longer is able to pay for them? That crisis would no doubt spur quick action in Harrisburg. And even if that action was to punish us with a cut somewhere else in the budget, at least we'd remain whole.

4. Put out bids for every aspect of government. And include the departments that are providing the service. We don't think privatizing government is the answer. But neither should we assume that all departments are as efficient as possible, nor that the job of government is public employment. The 1 percent cut of 200 workers isn't pretty, but compare it with the rate at which corporations are shedding jobs.

5. Pool health-care plans for public employees. Benefits for city employees represent one of the largest expenditures by local government. Mayor Nutter is already pursuing the idea of consolidating the four city unions' plans into one, but he could also encourage other public-sector workers - such as SEPTA employees and public-school teachers - to participate in the effort. If it's successful, the idea could be expanded to include major universities and other institutions.

6. Tap our rich corporate citizens for whom we have built stadiums. If the smart idea for the city to borrow directly from the U.S. treasury doesn't work, why not ask the Eagles - a team that's worth $1 billion - for some low-cost loans?

About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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