OPINION: Subsidized Water Bills Hurt the Middle Class

Filed under: Featured News,Labor,Latest News,Politics |

REPUBLICAN Party of Philadelphia Chairman Mike Meehan.


BY MIKE MEEHAN

Unlike any other program in the country, according to city officials, Philadelphia has implemented an income-based water program. The program unveiled by the mayor’s office last week will result in a 10% increase in water rates over two years and is estimated to cost $18 million.

According to Philly.com, the program will be open to anyone with an income under 150% of the federal poverty level, which they report as $36,900 for a family of four. This means even a number of those not technically categorized as living in poverty will also qualify to have their bill based upon their income and not their usage. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts 2016 report, 46% of all Philadelphia households have an income below $35,000.

Everyone needs water. It’s one of life’s basic necessities. There exists no way around increases for dutiful, hard-working residents who pay their bills on time. Many of the city’s residents, specifically the middle class with families, also struggle to pay their bills. This new policy is a direct attack on them. Additionally, a policy such as this could become an environmental nightmare, giving those who qualify for the program no incentive to use water wisely. It’s pretty obvious why there is no other program of its kind operating anywhere in the country.

Philly.com also reports delinquent residents will have their incurred water debts “indefinitely suspended upon entry to the program and the penalties and interest on that debt would be forgiven after two years of on-time payments.

The Water Department is admittedly unclear if there will be further rate increases after 2018.

Instead of trying to continually enhance Philadelphia’s appeal to hard-working, middle class people, policies like this chase them away. In this way there may also be an impact on businesses largely patronized them, such as local restaurants, clothing chains and cultural venues. This is essentially another transfer of wealth, not deductible as a tax or charitable contribution.

Meehan is Philadelphia Republican Party chairman.

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