More than 150 union members, community leaders and residents united in support of taxing the ultra-rich and investing in working-class communities
Philadelphia – Yesterday outside City Hall, the Tax the Rich PHL Coalition and Board Member Kendra Brooks (At-Large) held a popular hearing on the proposed wealth tax bill of Philadelphia and amplified calls to tax the wealthy at the federal, state and local levels. The diverse group of speakers highlighted the need for local leaders to reject austerity approaches to city financing and the trickle-down economy, which have led to unprecedented rates of income inequality and a growing racial wealth. Instead, the groups have called for taxing the wealthy and using that funding to make targeted investments in working-class communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and have faced decades of underfunding. , housing discrimination and gentrification.
Council member Kendra Brooks’ bill, which was introduced in April 2022, would levy a 0.4% tax on stocks and bonds, excluding retirement accounts, and raise 70% of its incomes of Philadelphia’s top 5%, by income. The PA Budget and Policy Center estimates the tax could generate more than $200 million a year in annual city revenue, which could then be invested in city services that would support working families in neighborhoods that have faced the largest divestment, such as recreation centers, libraries. , summer camps and after-school youth programs, job training initiatives, mobile mental health crisis units and more. The People’s Audience comes after the postponement of several City Council hearings, including the one scheduled for September 21 on Wealth Tax, due to the City Council’s recent resignations.
“Philadelphia already has everything we need to build the city of our dreams. It’s just a matter of political courage, determination and investment,” said board member Kendra Brooks. “If we stopped cutting taxes for the ultra-rich, donating to big business, and instead investing in communities that have been sidelined for years, we could heal generations of disinvestment. In order to reduce poverty, fight gun violence, and build strong neighborhoods, we need to stop waiting for wealth to trickle down and start putting people before profit. My constituents deserve a city where everyone pays their fair share and where future generations can live, grow and prosper.
Brooks was also joined by Council Member Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), co-sponsor of the bill, who reaffirmed her support for the Philly Wealth Tax.
“We need the resources that a wealth tax would generate,” said board member Jamie Gauthier. “We are not asking for charity or alms. This is what black and brown and working class Philadelphians are owed. The reason owed to us is that Philadelphia, like many cities across the country, has a long history of redlining and divestment. The problems in our communities are the direct result of these racist policies which have allowed some to thrive while others have been left behind. And now we see the consequences of deceiving the working class and people of color on building family wealth for generations. It’s long overdue for the ultra-rich to pay their fair share — so we can fund the community resources and municipal services our neighborhoods deserve, and bring prosperity and dignity to working-class communities.
In addition to the Philly Wealth Tax, the audience elevated a range of progressive campaigns that would more evenly distribute the tax burden in Philadelphia and bring more revenue to public schools and city services. Stakeholders stressed the need to end the ten-year tax abatement, which encourages gentrification and primarily benefits wealthy landlords and private developers while depriving public schools of tens of millions of dollars in annual funding. Others demanded that mega-nonprofits and wealthy institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS), as other universities have done in a number of cities across the country. Speakers also acknowledged that Philadelphia alone cannot take responsibility for addressing the unequal tax structure, amplifying calls for Congress to raise the tax rate for ultra-wealthy millionaires and billionaires and for the General Assembly to the Palestinian Authority imposes similar taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents. .
Unions and worker-led organizations showed strong support for Philadelphia’s wealth tax at popular hearing with AFSCME District 47 Council, SEIU 32BJ District 1201, Council AFSCME District 33, Community College of Philadelphia Faculty Union AFT Local 2026 and One Pennsylvania all represented. Union leaders drew on their first-hand experience and spoke about the effects of budget cuts, staffing shortages and inadequate municipal services on their workplaces, stressing the need to fully fund municipal services so they can do their job properly.
“I am a counselor at CCP and proud to be a community college graduate. I received the gift of graduating debt-free, but now the average CCP graduate student has over $10,000 in debt, said AFT Local 2026 member Elisa King and the Tax the Rich PHL coalition. “The City of Philadelphia has underpaid what it owes the CCP for years – because our city refuses to demand that the wealthy pay what they owe. Wealthy individuals and institutions are not paying their fair share , and that’s why my students are graduating with debt.
“For too long, Philadelphia has passed legislation providing tax breaks, tax loopholes and waived taxes that allowed very wealthy residents of the city of Philadelphia to avoid paying their fair share,” said Cathy Scott, president of the AFSCME District Council 47.
“People in power need to tax the rich, people who sit in fancy buildings need to pay their fair share, so working people can live a decent life,” said District 33 council member Antione Little. ‘AFSCME. “Every person who lives in the city of Philadelphia and across this country deserves a fair education, deserves to be able to put food on their table, deserves to have the lights on without worrying if someone is going to kick them out. Today we are here to say, tax the rich!
“When the school district faces a budget shortfall, our members contribute money from our paychecks,” said John Bynum, member of SEIU 32BJ, Local 1201. “Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s billionaires continue to see their wealth grow, hundreds of millions of dollars every year. , while they refuse to pay their fair share for public services. Wealth inequality will only continue to grow unless we end it – and our black and brown communities will suffer more and more as the wealthy get richer. We cannot accept the status quo. »
“Over the past few decades, we’ve all seen the greatest redistribution of wealth from the bottom up,” said Howard Fisher, organizer of the worker-led group One Pennsylvania. “Corporate greed has eroded our democracy. These same wealthy people, people like billionaire Jeffrey Yass, poured money into campaigns to support election deniers — and to keep cutting taxes for the ultra-rich. As a result, blacks and browns saw their standard of living plummet while the wealthy got richer.
Other organizations that spoke and were in attendance included PA Budget and Policy Center, ACRE, Our City Our Schools Coalition, PA Working Families, Reclaim Philadelphia, Sunrise Movement, 215 People’s Alliance and others.