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Scranton Commuters Could Face New Tax To Help City

Tens of thousands of commuters who work in Scranton may soon have to pay up because the mayor is moving forward with plans for a new commuter tax.
Scranton, Lackawanna County-Tens of thousands of commuters who work in Scranton may soon have to pay up!

The mayor of Scranton is moving forward with plans for a new commuter tax.

As the city continues to struggle with its finances, the proposed tax would strictly go towards the city's pension crisis.

Based on estimates the last time the commuter tax issue was in court, there are roughly 23,000 people who commute into Scranton each day but live outside the city.

The tax itself would be three-quarters of one percent.

That means if a person makes $50,000 a year, city officials estimate the new tax would cost them roughly an additional $375/year.

Commuters weren't happy to hear about a new possible tax.

"It makes me a little angry," Trish Wright of Uniondale said. "I work in Scranton and I've worked here for five years. I come into Scranton everyday and I shop in Scranton. I use the restaurants in Scranton and I think I give a lot back to Scranton as it is."

If Mayor Bill Courtright gets his way, the commuter tax would go specifically to Scranton's pension crisis, which is rated "severely distressed" by the state.

Courtright says the pain must be felt by everyone who lives and works in the city.

"They travel our roads, they're protected by our police and fire and the money is going to the pensions for the people that are protecting them," Mayor Courtright said. "The money will go directly to the pensions. We can't use it for anything other than the pensions."

"I think it's a self-defeating move," Mayfield Mayor Alexander Chelick said.

Mayfield Mayor Alexander Chelick, who helped fight a different type of commuter tax several times in the past is once again against the city's plans.

He thinks the new commuter tax will hurt economic development.

"Why would a business want to come to a city where their employees are going to have to pay for parking, they're going to have to pay a commuter tax," Chelick said.

Mayor Courtright says he doesn't think there will be a big impact on businesses and he says not imposing the commuter tax would crush city homeowners.

"If we were to go just on property taxes, we would have to raise upwards of 119-percent to the people that live in the city and I simply couldn't do that," Mayor Courtright said.

The new tax does not require court approval like one that was defeated several years ago did because it will go just towards the pension crisis.

The legislation is expected to be introduced at Scranton City Council's meeting on Thursday night where people who live outside the city will be allowed to comment.

If approved, the tax would go into effect in October and would raise an estimated $5 million each year it is in effect.

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