What government ought to look like

    I’ve seen City Council members engage in petty sniping, flagrant self-dealing, even fistfights. But for the past two days I’ve watched them do what they’re supposed to : take a long, hard serious look at a plan to make our lives better.

    At issue is Council members Bill Green and Maria Quinones Sanchez’s proposal to make nearly a 180 degree turn in city business taxes, scrapping a 15 year-campaign to lower the tax on business receipts.

    They propose to quickly phase out the tax on business profits, and replace that revenue by nearly quadrupling the long-hated tax on gross receipts. The idea sounded a little wacky when Green first talked to me about it a year ago, but it turns out there are some really good reasons to take this approach, which I won’t go into here (for a five-minute explainer, go here).

    Instead, I want to commend these two for doing the right thing with a serious policy idea like this.

    They didn’t try and rush it into law last year. They took their time, did research, consulted policy experts and looked at other cities. They solicited input from  business leaders of many stripes, and worked closely with financial experts in Mayor Nutter’s administration.

    And they brought it up for public hearings at the right time: now, when Council members aren’t  distracted by the city budget process and can give it the attention it deserves.

    Political rivalries and hard feelings have no doubt affected the debate, but the discussion in Council was substantive and civil.

    It doesn’t look like the sponsors have the votes to get their bill approved now, and it may never happen. But they’ve raised important issues which will affect city tax policy in a positive way.

    And that’s what government ought to look like.

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