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Philadelphia Should Tax Cars Instead Of Closing Libraries

Never has a mayor’s name been more apt than that of Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter is a major nutter, intent upon closing libraries in Philadelphia as a way to save money when, in fact, there are many other ways for the city to come in with a good budget.

Closing libraries is a community killer. Kids’ educational opportunities are impoverished when libraries are taken away. Adults lose a good source of reading material too, as well as a public place where they can meet without having to spend money or become dependent upon the support of corporations or ideological organizations.

Reading benefits the community. Educated workers are productive workers. Illiteracy is an economic drag. Yet, Mayor Michael Nutter is, in effect, creating a tax on readers. People who want to read will now need to either spend money to buy books or spend money to travel within the city to a distant library location that will be serving more people without an increased budget.

Travel within the city… that gets me thinking. Instead of taxing reading, why not tax those who contribute to the traffic problems of Philadelphia? Owning a car in a city like Philadelphia isn’t necessary, but many Philadelphia residents own cars anyway. They slow down the functioning of the city and pollute the air. Why not tax that negative behavior instead of taxing reading?

There are about 1,134,000 residents of the city of Philadelphia who are over the age of 18. About 13 percent of households in Philadelphia have no cars, but let’s be generous, and assume that with the economic troubles and high gasoline costs, that 25 percent of Philadelphia households will be car-free.

That brings us the figure of 850,500 residents of Philadelphians who live in households owning at least one car. Let’s make the further generous assumption, however, that these residents are all living in households with two adults, and that each household owns just one car, not two. That cuts our figure of car-owning residents of Philadelphia in half, to just 425,250.

If Philadelphia would institute a $1,000 annual tax on car owners, then it could raise over $425 million dollars every year. Sound excessive? Consider that Philadelphia is of the most expensive cities in which to drive a car, in large part due to high insurance costs there. Many Philadelphia residents already pay well over $1,000 every year for car insurance. They pay parking fees too, and for gasoline, and car for car repairs. Give all that, another thousand dollar annual cost wouldn’t much of an increase – not for those who can already afford to own and drive a car.

Keep in mind that owning a car in Philadelphia isn’t really necessary. There are opportunities like PhillyCarShare, for one thing. There are also Zip Cars in Philadelphia. Of course, there’s public transportation, and alternative forms of transportation, like bicycling or walking, as well.

Still not convinced? Okay. Let’s knock the Philadelphia car ownership tax down to just 100 dollars per year. Even at that minimal level, even with the very conservative estimates I’ve made, that car tax would bring Philadelphia revenues of more than 42.5 million dollars every year.

Now, guess how much Mayor Michael Nutter estimates would be saved by closing down city libraries – just 8 million dollars from the annual budget. If Nutter would just institute a hundred dollar car ownership tax, he could keep those libraries open, and improve their services as well. Nutter could also keep open some of the fire stations and public swimming pools that he’s proposed eliminating.

Philadelphia could have reduced traffic, cleaner air, better educated citizens, improved public safety, and kids who know how to swim – or it could save car owners one hundred dollars every year. Nutter is nutters for choosing cars over community.

1 comment to Philadelphia Should Tax Cars Instead Of Closing Libraries

  • tom

    Yeah, it’s always the short term solutions that politicians seem to opt for over ones that are smart and help the environment. On a positive note, some corporations and coalitions of private funders have stepped up to keep some libraries from closing, but with cut staff, shorter hours and fewer services.

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