June 23: Transfer tax shortfall | Sin tax city | NJ $125M library bond

The expansion of digital slot machines in bars, airports, lounges and truck stops targets “some of the poorest and vulnerable demographics,” writes Charles D. Ellison for the Philadelphia Citizen. Ellison argues that state lawmakers are eager to close the $1 billion budget deficit “by simply throwing booze and slot money at it, because that’s just much simpler than coming up with innovative ideas to leverage state industries, skill-sets and talent.” Ellison also questions some Philly-area State Senators plan to re-direct some casino revenues into local “economic development and revitalization” fund for special projects, rather than boosting funds for schools.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling this this week limiting the state’s use of gas drilling revenue could add a “$100 million complication to state budget negotiations,” according to the Post-Gazette. The decision, which “directs rents and royalties from state forest leases to a special fund under the control of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to be used exclusively for conservation, recreation, dams or flood control,” conflicts with Governor Wolf’s proposed budget to use roughly $100 million of those royalties to “pay for DCNR’s daily operations or be transferred to another fund for statewide environmental and infrastructure projects.”

Philadelphia missed out on its full transfer-tax bounty when developer Bart Blatstein sold the Shops at Schmidts retail complex in Northern Liberties, Jacob Adelman writes. The disparity, in which the transfer tax on the deal was “calculated against the property’s much lower city-assessed value,” happened shortly before new city rules required “buyers and sellers of real estate-owning entities to base transfer taxes on the amount of money changing hands, despite no deed being recorded.” Adelman points out that at least three big commercial real estate transactions, including the sale of Two Liberty Place and Wanamaker, tapped into this previous loophole.

The Rebuild initiative is a crucial investment in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and indispensable to the life of the city, writes the Daily News editorial board. While development in “Center City is the great job creator and a magnet for tourists…that is indispensable to our economy,” the editorial board argues that the reinvestment in rec centers and libraries, “the city’s only visible presence at the street level in neighborhoods,” maintains the lifeblood of Philadelphia’s communities, and that “Philadelphia will rise or fall on the strength and viability of these communities.”

Across the river, New Jersey voters may soon vote on a $125 million bond act to build and expand public libraries, NewsWorks’ Phil Gregory reports. The library construction bond act, which requires public approval, would finance half the costs of a project, while the local government would have to pay the other half. The last library construction bond act in New Jersey was 15 years ago.

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