Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Every time they try to raise taxes or tolls, the relevant agency turns up in a scandal

That's a bit of an overstatement. Ok, it's a lot of an overstatement. Still, check out recent history repeating itself: Early this year, Mayor Nutter wanted to close the city's budget hole in large part by raising property taxes. But that plan started to look awfully iffy when the Inquirer published a big series revealing that the BRT is dysfunctional in its central function: property valuation. The property tax plan got scrapped and instead the city is talking about BRT reform.

Every time they try to raise taxes or tolls, the relevant agency turns up in a scandal

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That's a bit of an overstatement. Ok, it's a lot of an overstatement. Still, check out recent history repeating itself: Early this year, Mayor Nutter wanted to close the city's budget hole in large part by raising property taxes. But that plan started to look awfully iffy when the Inquirer published a big series revealing that the BRT is dysfunctional in its central function: property valuation. The property tax plan got scrapped and instead the city is talking about BRT reform.

Then, last week, the state filed an application with the Federal Highway Administration to install tolls on I-80. Except this weekend we learned that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which runs I-80, is under FBI investigation.

I have no idea what's going to happen here -- if anything will come of the investigation or, if so, if it will impact the state's attempt to institute new tolls. But there's something sadly funny about seeing this dynamic again. The government can't very well ask citizens to accept tax or toll hikes if the agencies involved are suspected of wrongdoing or incompetence.

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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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