Tax shift in the wind?

    Mayor Nutter’s team never got to testify in a City Council hearing Tuesday on far-reaching proposals to overhaul the city’s business taxes.  Nutter opposes the plan by freshmen Council members Bill Green and Maria Quinones Sanchez.

    It’s traditional to begin Council hearings on major issues with testimony from the mayor’s administration. In this case, city finance director Rob Dubow cooled his heels all day, while a parade of business owners and citizen groups testified, more in favor of the bill than against.

    Just before 5p.m., Dubow was excused, and promised he could testify Wednesday at 1 p.m. The hearing began around 10:30, and didn’t adjourn until around 6.

    Sanchez said after the hearing adjourned that Dubow agreed testifying later in the hearing made sense, so he could respond to others who commented on the issue.

    On the whole, sponsors made a strong case for eliminating the city tax on businesses profits and replacing it with higher taxes on sales within the city. Builders and hotel owners said it’s a terrible idea, but Green made a persuasive case that many businesses outside the city are manipulating their revenues to avoid paying the tax on profits. An accountant explained some of the tricks, and said it’s much easier to simply tax sales.

    When the Nutter team has their say Wednesday, they’ll argue that a handful of big law firms will benefit from the change, and some of the  city’s largest employers will take a hit. And, they’ll  say, it will leave a $23 million hole in the city budget.

    Expect at least another long day of debate on this, as there should be. It’s a change of course that could affect the city’s ability to create and keep jobs for years to come.

    Green says he’s not sure if he has the votes for passge. Most Council members didn’t signal a clear intention in Tuesday’s marathon session.

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