Pennsylvania’s Tax Code is Hideously Regressive

Pennsylvania’s crazy regressive tax code is an issue I think it would be worth picking a Constitutional amendment fight over:

Pennsylvania is one of the “Terrible Ten” states with the most regressive tax structures nationwide, hitting the poor hardest while taking the least from the rich, according to a newreport from the liberal Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy [...]

Poor Pennsylvanians effectively pay 12 percent of their income in state taxes, middle-income people pay 9.8 percent, and the top 1 percent pay 4.4 percent, the study finds. That means that low-income Pennsylvanians pay taxes at rates nearly three times as high as their 1 percenter counterparts [...]

Pennsylvania, according to the study, has the ninth-highest tax rate on the poor of any state nationwide. And they don’t get much for their money: Gov. Tom Corbett has cut public basic and higher education by $1 billion, heavily cut into county programs for the poor and disabled, and entirely eliminated cash General Assistance welfare.

The flat income tax is in the state Constitution, so if we want to create some higher tax brackets then we have to pass a bill in two consecutive sessions, and win a statewide ballot referendum.

Politicians don’t like to take on protracted multi-session fights like this, but the messaging on this one is very clear (should rich people pay more of the taxes than poor people?) and it’s totally winnable. What’s more, this is an issue that Democratic challengers could organize around for the next decade. Progressives can make this a litmus test for the Governor primary, and use it to primary out craven or conservative Democrats.

(Thanks: Daniel Denvir)

Confirmed: Single Hauler Plan Would Cut Bethlehem Trash Bills 40-60%

Nicole Radzievich says the bids are in, and they are in fact considerably cheaper than what most Bethlehem residents pay now:

While city officials are still reviewing the five bids, the city’s preliminary calculations show the annual bill per household could range from $137 to $209, depending on who the lowest qualified bidder turns out to be.

City officials estimate the average bill now is $340.

The numbers don’t include recycling fees, which are now at $60. City officials are still evaluating the recycling portion of the bids. The city could also add an administrative fee to the hauling proposal.

“It’s very clear from the numbers that a considerable savings could be passed on to the residents of the city of Bethlehem and they could get better service than they are getting now,” Mayor John Callahan said. “The numbers don’t lie.”

But of course Eric Evans is still trying to weasel out of a vote, even though he now knows this plan is cheaper and better. He won’t even commit to a committee hearing on the plan:

“If the administration wants to talk about it, I’ll listen, but I don’t want to just rehash what’s already been said,” Evans said.

Evans said he’s not sure how the bid numbers would factor into deciding whether to change from the current private system, where residents can choose their own hauler, to one city-contracted hauler. Calling it “economics,” he said large companies can bid low, eliminate competition and hike their prices [...]

Evans said the administration has asked for a committee meeting of the entire council to discuss the matter, but said he doubts there is consensus to convene one. He said he would welcome the chance for a public discussion on other trash-related issues such as zoned hauling.

LOL Eric what else is left to factor into your decision? Is it cheaper? Check. Is the service more comprehensive? Unless the deal Bethlehem gets is for some reason way worse than the one every other municipality gets, then you can check that off too. Does it have popular support? Check. There’s nothing else to debate.

Also, the idea that you’re going to sign a contract and then the company is going to turn around and raise prices above what you agreed to is paranoid nonsense. It proves Evans doesn’t have the analytical chops to make these decisions.

Luckily if City Council doesn’t pass this thing this Spring, people can vote Evans out in the May primary. The last vote on this narrowly lost, 4-3. You only need to elect one or two more supporters to get it over the line, and there are at least two open seats on the ballot for City Council.