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County to Easton: Reject Commuter Tax

Northampton County Council says proposed Easton commuter tax is unfair to county workers.

Council has approved a resolution asking the city of Easton to reject a proposed commuter tax.

Easton hopes to use the to pay its pension costs.

But county officials say the tax -- which would levy a 1.75 percent fee to people who commute into, but don't live in, the city -- is unfair to county employees. 

"To tax employees for someone else's pension is a tough pill to swallow," said county Executive John Stoffa.

County Controller Steve Barron said the tax would affect about 800 employees, and generate roughly $250,000.

The resolution was proposed by Council President John Cusick, who lives in Williams Township. He said that earlier in the day, he'd been reading the Declaration of Independence, and focused on the "taxation without representation" line.

"I think that's a clear example of what we see going on here," Cusick said. "Budgets to me involve choices. What's unfortunate here…is the employees of this county are a target for a tax they have no control over."

No one from the city attended the meeting, a fact that angered Councilman Lamont McClure.

"When you're trying to capture this kind of tax money out of our employees, why wouldn't they talk to us about this?" he said.

Councilman Robert Werner, an Easton resident, noted that Mayor Sal Panto was out of town. He said he'd spoken with the mayor, and understands Easton has a dilemma.

"I'm not happy about this. However I realize also the city is doing what it has to do to survive," Werner said.

But that wasn't enough to convince Werner to vote against the resolution, which passed 8-0. (Councilwoman Barbara Thierry was absent.)

Cusick noted that the commuter tax affects other issues, such as the question of whether the county should out of Easton. That's something Cusick has opposed in the past.

"How can I make that argument anymore when moving out would benefit our employees?" he asked.

Easton is scheduled to hold a public meeting devoted to the commuter tax on Monday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at the council chambers in .

 

 

 

Jon Geeting July 06, 2012 at 01:20 PM
People can avoid the tax by moving to Easton. Right now, the EIT rate for Easton residents is higher than in surrounding areas. This levels the playing field, by equalizing the rates. It gets rid of a small disincentive to live in Easton - a very smart thing to do from the city's standpoint. A different option to consider would be for the city to simply get rid of its earned income tax on *residents*, get rid of its tax on assessed *building* value, and make up the difference with a tax on assessed land value. This would create more demand for land in Easton, as it would become something of a tax haven for people wanting to avoid taxes on labor and development. But the increased demand for land would allow the city to raise more revenue than it currently does, from a tax with virtually no negative economic side effects, unless you are overly concerned about the interests of land speculators and vacant lot owners.
Amend July 06, 2012 at 04:56 PM
@jon- that's an interesting angle, but what dollar amount do you see that bringing in? To be honest, I find it contradicting of county council to discuss notions of fairness when they're giving an impact fee to West Easton for a non violent DUI "center" housing about 200 offenders, yet Easton has an 800+ inmate prison housing the county's most violent criminals, and doesn't see an extra dime. There was a murder the other day just steps away from the prison committed by someone who had been in and out of jail. That's what we, the citizens of Easton, deal with. Yet, the county shines no undo respect or responsibility towards that necessity. In fact, it goes so far as to give money to a neighboring community so that that community would permit them to house their lowest offenders. Where's the fairness in that? Further, its slightly insulting, keeping that earlier inequity in mind, for council to threaten to move workers out of the city under the guise of fairness. Odd, how they didn't mention the prison workers when discussing fairness. Guess the burden must be different for them, otherwise, following council's logic, they should also consider removing the prison from the city...out of fairness, no?
louis kootsares July 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
i see the word fair being used by the county in its argument..its a good word means nothing especially where government is concerned go easton do your commuter tax tell the county council to butt out and use the word fair when the weather is nice
DOCurmudgeon July 06, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Right, Jon, moving to Easton removes a slight disincentive by locking it in, no matter where you work; that's not avoiding it. Easton residents currently pay the higher rate regardless of where they work.
another point of view July 06, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Here's a better alternative. If you commute to the courthouse and feel that the tax is unfair, quit your job. Some happy, deserving, unemployed Easton resident will fill the job and pay the tax with a smile. It's a win win. You don't have to pay the tax. Someone else will.

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