Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Repeal the BPT? Not so fast

According to reports, the City Council Committee of the Whole voted tonight to approve bill 040767, which will phase out the Business Privilege Tax. A final vote on the legislation will occur on Thursday, June 2nd.

It should be noted the bill did not receive enough votes needed (12) to override a mayoral veto. Despite attempts by supporters to frame the vote as a victory, it's basically the same thing that happened to the bill a few months ago. I suspect Councilman Cohen (and maybe Ramos) will vote for the bill on June 2nd, but not vote to override Street's veto. Councilman Cohen has been playing a coy game all along, telling both opponents and supporters of the bill that he hasn't made up his mind yet.

In reality, it's really an attempt by Cohen to leverage what little power he has in council. By presenting himself as a swing vote, he is able to secure various promises and favors from both sides. He did the same dance when trying to get support for his tax-credit for the working poor. And it was successful. When Street veto the tax reform proposals the last time around, he left out Cohen's bill. I suspect something similar will happen this time around.

That said, I could never imagine Cohen voting for this bill. I don't want to revisit all the arguments pro or con about the BPT, so I'll point you to two websites. The first is Philadelphia Forward, which is dedicated to the repeal of the BPT. It's run out of the Pennsylvania Economy League, a pro-business public policy organization that has connections to some of the largest corporations in Pennsylvania. The second website is a group called One Philadelphia. One Philadelphia is a coalition of community organizations, labor unions, and religious organizations that support fully funded social services. They claim the repeal of the BPT would cause drastic cuts in service. Some of the leaders of One Philadelphia are former City Councilman Angel Ortiz, Sherrie Cohen (Councilman David Cohen's daughter and a respected community activist in her own right), and Linda Rhym (the vice president of AFSCME DC 47).

So, check out those two sites and them post who you think is right.

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