Nutter, Williams slam Philly pols opposing property tax plan

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state Sen. Anthony Williams Thursday attacked city officials who oppose or seek to modify Nutter’s plans to reassess all homes and businesses and, in the process, generate $94 million more for the school district.

Nutter’s market value assessment plan was sure to be controversial in City Council, but the latest snag in the effort to implement the plan is in Harrisburg. The city needs companion legislation from the state Capitol to change its tax rates, and passage has become anything but routine.

Williams said the problem in Harrisburg has come from Philadelphia lawmakers.

“Those bills were moving through the legislature quite effectively, quite quietly,” Williams, D-Philadelphia, said in a news conference with Nutter Thursday. “The governor was prepared to support them, until Philadelphia decided to have its own food fight.”

The fight came in part from state Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, whose district includes many gentrifying areas in South Philadelphia and Center City. Property owners in those neighborhoods could see big hikes in their tax bills if the reassessment plan is enacted.

Farnese is trying to amend the Nutter bill to make the reassessment plan revenue-neutral, forcing City Council to vote to raise taxes for the school district if that’s what they want.

“I’m not holding anything back,” Farnese in a phone interview after Williams and Nutter’s news conference. “We’re saying, look, you want our help? You have it. Let’s have City Council raise the revenue, but do it in an open and transparent process. Or in other words, take a vote.”

An irony here is that Nutter has good relations with Republican leaders in Harrisburg, who would be willing to support his bill.

But Erik Arneson, a spokesman for the GOP leadership, said when Philadelphians are balking and calling the plan a back-door tax hike, it doesn’t leave upstate lawmakers a lot of incentive to carry the freight for the bill.

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