Philly councilmember rallies for new one-of-a-kind city wealth tax

Kendra Brooks’ bill would impose a city tax on stocks and bond holdings
Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks at a rally outside City Hall in support of her wealth tax proposal.
Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks at a rally outside City Hall in support of her wealth tax proposal. Photo credit Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks whipped up support for her proposed wealth tax with a rally at City Hall on Wednesday.

Her bill would impose a tax of 0.4% on stocks and bond holdings which currently are not taxed at all.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said it would raise $200 million, which Brooks said could be used to fight crime, improve public services and create affordable housing.

“We already have everything we need to build the city of our dreams. It’s just a matter of political courage, determination and investment,” said Brooks.

The bill has been endorsed by former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and the city’s unions.

“For too long Philadelphia has passed too many tax breaks, tax loopholes which allow very wealthy residents to avoid paying their fair share,” said Catherine Scott, the president of AFSCME District Council 47, the white-collar city workers union.

Councilmembers Helen Gym and Jamie Gauthier are cosponsors, but other Council members have not taken a position on the bill.

Council President Darrell Clarke said he applauds the spirit of the bill.

“There are a lot of people that should be paying more taxes,” said Clarke. “They clearly have the wherewithal to do that. How we get {there] locally, nationally, has yet to be seen.”

All Pennsylvania counties had a similar tax until the 1990s when the state Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional.

Progressive Democrats such as Warren have proposed a national wealth tax but few states, and no cities, have one. Arguments against it are that wealthy residents can easily move.

In fact, the example that rally emcee Nicholas O’Rourke used to illustrate the issue of undertaxed wealth was billionaire Jeffrey Yass, currently the richest man in Pennsylvania who has gone to great lengths to avoid about $1 billion in taxes, according to ProPublica.

But his residence and business are both in Montgomery County. He doesn’t even pay wage tax.