Generally in agreement with Stephen Albert about Scranton’s fake new “recovery plan”, but one thing I don’t understand is his dismissal of the commuter tax on the grounds that it’s unpopular with non-residents. Non-residents, by definition, don’t vote in the city. City politicians have no responsibility to them. And if they don’t want to pay the commuter tax, then they have the option of avoiding it by moving inside the city limits – which, by the way, would save them additional money on transportation.
It would be nice if counties were the smallest unit of local government, and local politicians had to take a more regional view of the consequences of their decisions. But that’s not the system we have, and on balance, the prevailing every-town-for-itself approach is a really raw deal for older core cities like Scranton. I see no reason for city politicians to be wringing their hands about what non-city voters think about their tax plan.
While the tax will be decided through the courts, support for the levy seems strong among city residents, who pay for police and fire protection and infrastructure. Support drops off at the city limits. “I live here, and I stuck with the city,” said Cindy Dermont, a Scranton resident and downtown office worker. “So I’ve been paying the city’s property tax and income tax all along. Having commuters pay toward the city sounds good to me.”
Michael Pagano, Ph.D., dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, would say that Ms. Dermont has a right to want a commuter tax. Those who work in Scranton benefit from the services of the city – roads, infrastructure, common areas, sidewalks, police and fire – without paying for them. A commuter tax, he said, is a way to get the people who use services to support them rather than having city taxpayers subsidize the costs of commuters having jobs. “The people who moved to the suburbs for lower taxes don’t take into consideration that they are still using city services – because someone else has covered the cost of their having a job,” he said. “Unless that changes, people will continue to make rational decisions that screw the city where they work and leave remaining city taxpayers with a growing burden.”