Push for changing uniformity clause gaining momentum in Philadelphia

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State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams

For nearly a year, major business leaders in Philadelphia have been pushing to hike taxes on commercial properties in order to spur job growth.

They’re now optimistic they can make it happen.

The plan is to increase commercial property taxes as much as 15 percent so Philadelphia can cut an array of other taxes in the hopes of generating new jobs.

But doing so demands getting relief from Pennsylvania’s “uniformity clause” that says taxes must be imposed evenly.

“The path that we have been on for 40 years in this city — in terms of generating job growth in the city — has not worked,” said Jerry Sweeney, president of Brandywine Realty Trust, who heads the Philadelphia Jobs Growth Coalition, which is pushing the plan. “It’s sometimes good to take a path less traveled. To do that requires courage, requires commitment and requires leadership.”

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-Philadelphia, admits getting the change through two sessions of the Pennsylvania Legislature is a very high bar, but he believes the city delegation will have some leverage during budget talks over the next few months.

“The truth is the activity in Harrisburg is very passionate right now, with a variety of parts of Pennsylvania that have needs. And they are going to need us like we’re going to need them,” Williams said.  “We’re not going to ask for a penny … they are going to ask for a lot.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said, even if this takes a few years, the effort is worth it.

“Our goal over the next 10 years is to reduce everyone’s wage tax bill below 3 percent, and cut the income portion of the [business income and receipts tax] in half,” said Kenney.  “This will enable hundreds, thousands of businesses to add an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new jobs over the next decade.”

Philadelphia has raised property taxes multiple times in recent years, mostly to generate more money for city schools.

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