The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia recently selected State Reps. Brendan Boyle and his brother Kevin Boyle (both D-Northeast) to visit Israel next week.
Brendan and Kevin were chosen by the Federation to travel to Israel to discuss economic and foreign policy issues with Israeli leaders and exchange ideas regarding Philadelphia’s association with the Jewish state.
“Israel is our most important strategic ally in the world, and an estimated 300,000 Americans are living in Israel today,” Brendan Boyle said. “It is important for public officials at every level of government to discuss issues affecting both Israelis and Americans, and our shared economic and foreign policy goals.”
Kevin Boyle agreed, adding their appreciation for the Federation’s desire to have them represent Philadelphia during the visit.
“We are grateful for the confidence the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has in us as their elected state lawmakers and look forward to the discussions we’ll have with our allies in Israel,” he said. “Both Brendan and I passionately support the state of Israel and its right to security.”
No taxpayer dollars are being used for the one-week visit beginning Mar. 3.
GREEN SEEKS TAX EQUITY FOR PROFITS OF ‘NONPROFITS’
Councilman Bill Green has introduced a companion bill to legislation previously introduced that would give direction to the Dept. of Revenue to collect property taxes due from a nonprofit if that nonprofit is engaging in commercial activity outside of their charitable, religious or educational mission on real estate that they own.
“We’ve seen such an expansion of exempt properties which have the real effect of pushing up the tax rate for everyone,” the Councilman said. “We need clarification of our laws, transparency and ultimately enforcement by the Dept. of Revenue to ensure everyone is paying their fair share.”
Almost one-third of Philadelphia properties are currently exempt from property taxes – one of the highest rates in the nation and one that has only gone up in recent years. Councilman Green’s proposal would require nonprofits to certify annually under penalty of perjury their continued nonprofit status with regard to the real estate they claim or have requested a tax exemption for.
“I believe the certification requirement will assist the Administration in their stated goal of increasing Payments In Lieu of Taxes,” Green said.
The measure would also direct the Dept. of Revenue to assign real-estate taxes to non-profit institutions as allowed under State law based upon the percentage of their property being used for commercial purposes. The companion legislation, introduced earlier this year and awaiting a committee hearing, clarifies the requirement of payment of Business Income & Receipts Taxes with respect to any commercial activity outside of the nonprofit’s charitable, religious or educational mission.
Many of Philadelphia’s tax-exempt nonprofit institutions have grown, expanded and morphed into complicated, multifaceted organizations and in some cases the nature of their activities has expanded beyond their traditional, nonprofit mission.
“As the activities of these organizations expand, or the use of their facilities expands or recedes, we need the City informed to ensure we receive all the revenue to which we are entitled,” the Councilman said. “It may surprise everyone to learn that once a property is listed as exempt, it is the rare taxpayer that informs us it, or a portion of it, should go back on the tax rolls.”
CLAY’S OFFICE TO HELP WITH TAX APPEALS
State Rep. James Clay (D-Kensington) is encouraging homeowners to visit his district office if they need help appealing their Philadelphia city property tax assessments.
“Our office has received numerous calls since the letters came out this week, and you have some situations where the home values are triple what they should be,” Clay said.
“Some people were unsure what options they could take to remedy the situation and others knew they could appeal but found the Board of Revision of Taxes does not have any information on how to appeal the assessment on their website,” he continued.
“If anyone in the 179th Legislative Dist. needs help, they should come down to my district office on Frankford as soon as they can. The deadline is approaching, so the sooner people come in, the sooner we can get started on the research and the appeal process,” Clay said.
The deadline to have appeals filed is Mar. 31.
Clay’s constituent service office is located at 4915 Frankford Avenue. The telephone number is (215) 744-7901.
McCARTER WILL HOST OPEN HOUSE
State Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Northeast) will host an open house from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Mar. 2, in his constituent service office, 215 S. Easton Road, Glenside, Pa.
The open house will allow constituents to meet McCarter and his staff, as well as learn what assistance his office may provide regarding state programs and other issues.
McCarter’s district includes a couple of Northeast Philadelphia divisions.
GOODE PUSHES TO EXPAND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
City Council’s Committee on Commerce & Economic Development has approved Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr.’s New CDC Tax Credit Expansion Bill. The bill expands Goode’s CDC Tax Credit Program, which gives tax credits to businesses that contribute to community-development corporations engaged in neighborhood economic development.
The New CDC Tax Credit Expansion Bill would expand the program from 35 to 40 partnerships. The expanded program would bring over $4 million more in private investment to Philadelphia’s neighborhoods over the next decade for a grand total of over $30 million invested during that time period to create new economic opportunities.
The Committee also approved Goode’s Living Wage & Benefits Expansion Bill which would expand the type of employers that are subject to paying their employees at least 150% of the federal minimum wage, offering comparable health benefits to full-time employees and up to 56 hours of earned sick leave. Covered employers would now include more recipients of City leases, concessions, or franchises, as well as their subcontractors, by removing the requirement for a minimum number of 25 total employees. Businesses with five employees or less, as well as businesses with annual gross receipts of less than $1 million, would still be exempted from the law.
GREENLEE: BOSS CAN’T ASK FOR YOUR SOCIAL-MEDIA INFO
Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced legislation that would prohibit employers from demanding personal social media account information from employees or prospective employees.
The bill also would prohibit employers from threatening to discipline or disciplining employees and refusing to hire prospective employees upon refusal to disclose password information for social-media sites including Facebook and Twitter.
“Asking workers or potential hires for their Facebook account information is a disturbing trend that must be stopped,” the Councilman said. “Workers deserve and expect a reasonable amount of privacy and First Amendment protections. In addition, there is the potential for unlawful discrimination – against women who become pregnant, for example.”
States including California, New Jersey and Delaware have enacted laws barring employers from demanding employees and job applicants provide their personal social media password information.
Greenlee’s bill contains exceptions to protect employers’ right to establish workplace policies regarding the use of electronic communications and to monitor information about employees and job applicants already in the public domain. The bill does not affect employers’ right to request access to social-media communications during the course of discovery in litigation.
“In this competitive hiring environment, it is blatantly unfair for employers to pressure workers and job seekers into forking over their personal space. Digital privacy is a right that must be protected,” Greenlee insisted.
SABATINA SINKS TEETH INTO HOUSE BUDGET HEARINGS
State Rep. John Sabatina (D-Northeast) said he will spend the next three weeks in Harrisburg taking part in House Appropriations Committee budget hearings.
Sabatina, a returning member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he looks forward to again having a front row seat in negotiations.
Sabatina said, “Being on the committee gives me a first-look at information that will prove valuable in determining the most appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Pennsylvania faces some major challenges specifically with transportation, education and health care funding. I will be working hard to protect Philadelphia residents in budget negotiations.”
The committee plays a vital role in examining the Governor’s budget proposal and how it will affect people in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Corbett announced his budget proposal on Feb. 5 and House budget hearings for the 2013-14 state budget will be held this week through the beginning of March.
More information about the 2013-14 state budget process is available on www.hacd.net.
YOUNGBLOOD EYES GAMING TO EASE CITY’S A.V.I. WOES
With Friday’s release of new property-tax assessments as a result of the Mayor’s Actual Value Initiative, State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood (D-Northwest) announced she is asking the Commonwealth to study the allocation of gaming revenue provided to Philadelphia from the Property Tax Relief Fund to see if the money provided by casino gambling can help offset the massive tax increases facing hundreds of thousands of city residents.
Youngblood said that currently, Philadelphia is the only county that uses money from the Property Tax Relief Fund to reduce the city’s wage tax. All of the other 66 counties utilize taxes on casinos to reduce property taxes for homeowners. When casino gaming was first legalized in Pennsylvania, financial analysts said Philadelphia residents paid less in property taxes and more in wage taxes than residents of many other jurisdictions, and residents would best be served with a reduction in wage taxes.
But with the administration’s implementation of AVI, Youngblood said it is time to rethink how gaming money is appropriated in Philadelphia.
“According to a report by the City Controller, nearly 350,000 properties will see an increase in property taxes through AVI, which is more than double those who will see any decrease in taxes,” Youngblood said. “These new values are expected to be the basis for property-tax bills due in 2014, and I am already receiving calls from folks in my district who are terrified that they won’t be able to meet their new tax liability. There is no doubt in my mind that the impacts of AVI on property taxpayers in Philadelphia could have dire impacts on homeowners and communities across the city.”
Youngblood said her proposal (HR 86) would require the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study whether wage tax relief or property tax relief best represents the needs of the residents and taxpayers of Philadelphia, specifically now with the implementation of AVI in full swing.
“Back when gaming was first adopted by the General Assembly, and we determined how to divvy up the majority of the tax revenue from this new industry, AVI was not even on the radar,” she added. “But now, with property tax values rising by 200% or even 300% for some folks, we need to review our policy and determine what’s in the best interest of all Philadelphia taxpayers. And to make it worse, Philadelphia doesn’t allow for a payment plan when it comes to paying property taxes.
“There are several proposals in the House and Senate that would help alleviate some of the pain AVI will cause,” Youngblood said. “And a new study on whether reducing property taxes or wage taxes should be part of the discussion so that Philadelphia uses gaming money in the best manner that represents the needs of its citizens.”
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