Nothing says “taxation is theft” as much as bringing a case against local government over its taxes, which is what I and a group of fellow Scrantonians did last week over its excessive use of Act 511.
Act 511 taxes encompass all local taxes and is one of the city’s main revenue generators. I have been campaigning for some time for the bankruptcy of the city, and these taxes are part of my motivation. I contend that the taxes in Scranton are excessively high due to the mounting debt the local government holds. This is a result of years of poor fiscal decisions in addition to multiple underfunded pensions.
The city has attempted to rectify the situation through the fire sale of public assets. This has only resulted in the residents having to pay higher fees for services, as well as increased taxes. Why would they have to pay increased taxes? Well, the Scranton government has the uncanny propensity to sell public assets but retain the debt obligation attached to those assets. It is like selling your house but keeping the mortgage. Thus, you not only have the benefit of shelter, but still have to make those monthly mortgage payments.
The case brought against the Scranton government argues that there is a legal limit to the amount of taxes that can be collected by local taxes. Scranton has passed this limit 5 years ago with the recent budget showing an overage of over 10 million dollars. The brief reads:
“The aggregate amount of all taxes imposed by any political subdivision under this section and in effect during any fiscal year shall not exceed an amount equal to the product obtained by multiplying the latest total market valuation of real estate in such political subdivision, as determined by the board for the assessment and revision of taxes or any similar board established by the assessment laws which determines market values of real estate within the political subdivision, by twelve mills.”
Fundamentally, the remedy would be to have the government force its local taxes down to be in line with the law. The law states that the local taxes cannot exceed the value of all the properties in the municipalities, multiplied by 12 mills or 1 thousand. This figure works out to approximately 27,000,000 for Scranton. To make matters worse, or interesting, depending on your perspective, this case has state-wide implications. Any municipality or state can have a case brought against it if it has been found to have local taxes above the legal cap.
Taxation is Theft!
Gary St. Fleur
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