Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pennsylvania Hurts Its Municipalities

In today's Standard Speaker Jim Dino highlights the peril to municipalities from a recent state law that took over licensing of contractors by the Commonwealth. SOP always viewed this law as another money grab by an out of control spending state legislature.

The state's takeover of licensing residential contractors has local municipalities scurrying to change their ordinances because of a loss of revenue.

Prior to this year, municipalities had the option of licensing contractors. Not only did it generate revenue, but it helped residents and municipal officials identify reputable contractors.

The City of Hazleton has lost the most in terms of revenue.

John Ackerman, the city's new public works director, said it has lost $57,300 in fees that 356 contractors paid in 2009 because of the change.

The city had been charging $100 for a license with one trade and $200 for a license with four trades - those used by a general contractor. Plus, the contractor had to buy a $100 business license.

Hazleton like all municipalities is at the mercy of the Pennsylvania legislature when it comes to taxation as a means of revenue. Legislators including Todd Eachus have long ignored their role in the financial crisis these municipalities face.

At the League of Women Voters annual Legislative Breakfast local legislators talked about the need to park partisan politics at the door when they negotiate the Commonwealth's budget.

It is time they park partisan politics when it comes to local municipalities and addressing the needs of the residents they took an oath of office to serve and protect. It is also time that our legislators take on the task of reducing the size of the legislature and/or its staff to shrink the tax impact on Commonwealth residents.

Guilty or not, Bonusgate has taught us how much time the legislative staff spends on campaign work. The investigation not only highlights the waste of taxpayer dollars, it represents the blatant corruption walking the halls of our state Capitol every day. Legislative reform should always be a work in progress. It is time for a serious all out effort.

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