Philadelphians, Suburbanites Are Ripping You Off

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Philadelphians, you are being ripped off. No, not by the government. Nor the parking authority. Nor even the overpriced coffee shop on the corner. You’re being ripped off by none other than me. And my friends. And my neighbors. And it’s time you did something about it.

That’s because the people I know are ripping you off pretty much every weekend (and many weeknights, too). Don’t believe me? Take a look at center city’s streets on a Saturday night. Or the squares on a Sunday afternoon. Go to an Eagles or Phillies game. Ride up and down Kelly Drive. There are lots of Philadelphia residents there, of course. But there are also lots of non-Philadelphians. There are families from New Jersey, tourists from Chicago, and empty-nesters from Lower Merion. We’re all going into town. It’s fun. It’s safe. It’s inviting. We’re using your restaurants and taking advantage of your entertainment. But we’re not paying our fair share. And that’s why you’re getting ripped off.

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Philly, You’re No Houston

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Why is Houston doing so well? In an interesting Wall Street Journal piece earlier this week, two urban planning experts say that Houston’s “pro-growth policies have produced an urban powerhouse — and a blueprint for metropolitan revival.” The writers say:

[T]he city’s low cost of living and high rate of job growth have made Houston and its surrounding metro region attractive to young families. According to Pitney Bowes, Houston will enjoy the highest growth in new households of any major city between 2014 and 2017. A recent U.S. Council of Mayors study predicted that the American urban order will become increasingly Texan, with Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth both growing larger than Chicago by 2050.

But really? Is Houston that good? Better than Philly? For the most part, no. But for one big part: yes.

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Judge Slaps Down Nutter Appeal on Lap Dance Tax

A Philadelphia judge today heard an important appeal from the mayor: The Nutter administration was in court today attempting to allow the city to tax lap dances. Unfortunately for the the mayor, the measure failed. Lap dances are now tax free in Philadelphia!

Last June, the Revenue Department decided that lap dances should be taxable and hit several strip clubs with big tax bills. Delilah’s, Club Risqué and Cheerleaders appealed and were successful: The tax bills — totaling around $900,000 — were thrown out. The city’s amusement tax was ruled too vague to apply to lap dances. Now a judge has upheld that ruling.

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Sen. Hughes: State Ed Funding “Unacceptable”

The state’s current plans for funding K-12 education are “unacceptable,” State Sen. Vincent Hughes said Friday in a letter to Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission.

The letter came a day after the Pennsylvania House passed its version of the budget that includes $70 million in funding increases, but omits many millions more that had been sought by Gov. Tom Corbett before the manifestation of a $1.5 billion budget deficit.

“Simply put, the level of education funding in the budget passed by the State House is unacceptable,” Hughes, a Philly Democrat, said in the letter addressed to SRC Chairman Bill Green.  “We all know that our teachers, parents, and students are already operating in a very difficult environment and the budget passed by the State House will only make matters worse. ”

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Is QVC Keeping Blockbuster Films Out of PA?

TribLive reports that Harrisburg lawmakers are seeking to limit the amount of state TV production credits that West Chester-based QVC can claim in a year — the home-shopping network, they say, is consuming a good chunk of the limited funding that could draw other TV and film productions to the state.

QVC has received $26.4 million from the tax credit program since 2008; last year it posted sales of $9 billion.

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Sam Katz Is Right: It’s Time for Philly to Get Creative and Privatize

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Sam Katz is right.

In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece, he urged “creative solutions” to the city’s funding crises. Among his recommendations were the passing of an additional sales tax and completing the sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) so that the proceeds could be used to partially fund the city’s pension liabilities and school district budget gaps. “In approving the sale of PGW and dedicating the first $120 million of the sales tax to our schools, the city can tackle both problems and send a powerful message to the skeptical state leaders that Philadelphia is innovatively addressing challenges with smart policy choices,” he wrote.

By why stop there? Katz, a former mayoral candidate and a business man, is only proposing what any other rational business person would do when faced with too much debt and not enough cash flow: Sell assets and pay down liabilities. He wants the city to be more creative, more innovative. And he’s on to something.

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