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Green Party Members Criticize Philadelphia City Council

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The Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP, www.gpop.org) has frequently taken a strong stand in support of public education. Now, members of the Green Party have criticized Philadelphia's City Council for failing to provide adequate funding for the city's public schools. "Philadelphia must take responsibility for its schools, and it must keep them public," says Alexander Gillett, chair of GPOP. "The two corporate parties are selling our children and our public schools into the bondage of ignorance and violence."

The Philadelphia City Budget passed by Council on June 20 aimed to fund public schools with increased taxes on people at the lower end of the economy. Poor and working people would have had to bear the brunt of the $90 million/year increased cigarette tax. Glenn Davis, a member of the GPOP City Committee, remarked, "This sounds like City Council wants poor and working people to pay for their children's education by increasing their risk of lung cancer."

Though the Council proposal had the support of the Chamber of Commerce, it could not go into effect without the cooperation of the Pennsylvania General Assembly--which, in the end, refused to pass it.

The impasse could have been avoided, however.

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"Philadelphia's City Council went on summer vacation after refusing to vote on four proposed taxes which do not require any action by up-state legislators," said Cheri Honkala, a possible candidate for City Council in 2015. "There are four separate proposals to increase funding for Philadelphia's public schools which would each require the wealthy to pay their fair share of the cost."

The four proposals referred to by Honkala, which could have been enacted by City Council without any help from Harrisburg, can be briefly characterized as follows: 

CUT THE FREE PASS. City Council should reduce the current 10-year property-tax free pass to just five years. The current free pass benefits the new, the few, and the well-to-do, while making long-time residents and businesses pay more.

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GOOD NEIGHBOR PAYMENTS. Right now, the mega non-profits (think Hahnemann University Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania, and others) pay no taxes on their profitable property. Since these non-profits use city services (think police and fire), City Council should require them to make good neighbor payments.

USE AND OCCUPANCY (U&O) REFORM. Philadelphia's new AVI real estate tax will shift $200 million dollars away from businesses and onto homeowners. City Council should raise the U&O tax rate on big businesses, thereby exempting most small businesses and restoring fairness to the property-tax code.

FREEZE THE WAGE TAX. Instead of reducing future wage taxes before seeing the future budgets, City Council should freeze the wage taxes to allow a careful year-to-year decision.

The increased income from these four proposals would be more than what is needed by the public schools, and would not require give-backs from public school employees.

However, because City Council has gone on summer vacation without taking any action to provide public schools with the funding they need, Green Party members have called on the Council to return to City Hall. Glenn Davis says, "This is about passing the buck. Council went on vacation without completing their school work."

"The Green Party Proposal for Philadelphia's Public Schools" was published on May 12, 2012. That document can be found here,
http://www.gpop.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2012GPOPNewsletterSchools.pdf.

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Chris Robinson is a graduate of Central High School (#219) in Philadelphia, PA. He lives in Germantown and has been a member of the Green Party of Philadelphia (www.gpop.org) City Committee since 2011. Chris Robinson is also a member of United (more...)
 

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