February 10, 2009
NN Positions on State and Local Budgets
NN prepares for testimony and lobbying activities
By Gloria Gilman and Stan Shapiro
Neighborhood Networks has developed budget positions which will be the basis for future testimony in the upcoming budget hearings. This is a serious and difficult time and we need to be clear about our priorities and defend the most progressive and humanistic approaches to the choices ahead. If you are going to testify or wish to write a letter to the editor or participate in a demonstration or press conference, please note the content of these positions and help NN make an impact with its thoughtful conclusions and answers to the current situation. Thanks....
Neighborhood Networks’ Position on City and State 2010 Budgets
In the face of the current economic crisis, both state and city governments have reacted by cutting spending, including spending on essential public services, such as education, healthcare, social services and police and fire protection. But in these hard economic times, city and state residents need such services more than ever. Cutting back on these services, and the layoffs these cuts involve, will only worsen the downward spiral.
Both the city and state should also be looking actively at raising new revenues. But Pennsylvania has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country …#34; the lower your income the larger the share of it you pay in state and local taxes. The situation in Philadelphia, with its wage tax and higher sales tax, is even worse. Simply raising existing tax rates to generate more revenue would only increase the burden on those who are already having trouble making ends meet, and should only be done as a last resort. Additional revenues should come from other sources.
Neighborhood Networks supports the following principles for dealing with the current economic and budget crisis:
1. Essential City and state human and social services should be maintained or expanded
Such services include, among other programs, libraries, recreation centers, fire and police services, health centers, education funding, college aid, drug and alcohol treatment, job training and placement, Medicaid, child protective services and behavioral health.
2. State and City budgets and the process for their adoption should be completely transparent
Details on all revenue and expenses should be available to all citizens online.
3. To maintain spending on essential services, the City should pursue all available non-tax revenue sources
• Collecting on the millions of dollars in uncollected fees, fines and other debts that the City Controller recently identified as being due to the City
• Demanding that huge non-profit institutions, like Penn and Jefferson, that use City services make a contribution to the City in lieu of taxes
4. If more tax revenue is necessary to maintain services, taxes should be adjusted so that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes
Possibilities at the state level include:
• Expanding the working families exemption
• Increasing the tax rate on dividends and capital gains
• Closing corporate loopholes that allow corporations to hide income out of state
• Instituting an extraction tax on natural resources, such as coal, like the ones that already exist in many other states
Possibilities at the city level include:
• Adding an income exclusion similar to the one for the state income tax
• Restructuring the real estate tax to cap it for low-income families
• Raising the business tax while adding exemptions for small businesses
4. The federal government should target economic stimulus funds to help cities avoid layoffs
A program to prop up pension funds hard hit by Wall Street’s collapse, for example, would save the city hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, avoiding layoffs and service cuts
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