Municipalities Campaign Against Scranton’s Commuter Tax

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SCRANTON -- It's now up to a judge to decide if people who commute to Scranton to work will help dig the city out of its financial hole.

Thursday night Scranton's city council passed a one percent commuter tax, but before it gets final approval. Some of those commuters are sounding off.

The commuter tax was proposed earlier this year as a way to help close the city's budget gap. It needs to be approved by a judge, but Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty said he was meeting with other officials today to schedule a day to take the tax to court for approval.

Some people who oppose the tax are hoping to stop it before it gets that far.

Kathie Fox said one of the reasons her business has been so successful is her location on Adams Avenue just off of Courthouse Square. She needs Scranton, and now city leaders said they need her too.

Fox lives in Clarks Summit. If the city's commuter tax is approved by the courts, one percent of Fox's personal income will go directly to Scranton.

"But, if it ultimately helps the city of Scranton then I would be willing to pay it. Because I really think Scranton is a good community and I want to see it prosper," said Fox.

The commuter tax came up when Scranton's budget fell short by $16 million earlier this year. The tax would raise about $2 million next year to help fill that hole.

Not all commuters are so happy about chipping in. Newswatch 16 found some part-time workers who said they'd consider working somewhere else instead.

"It's pretty unfair, I'm from Taylor and there aren't that many job opportunities there as it is," said Lindsay Iacovazzi of Taylor.

"It's just taking away from the business if you're taxing people who don't really need to be taxed. They're just trying to go to work," added Marissa Rossi, who lives in Luzerne County.

The commuter tax is obviously causing a stir outside the City of Scranton. So much so, that 23 neighboring municipalities formed a group called S.T.O.P. "Scranton Taxing Our People".

It was started by the mayor in the Borough of Mayfield.

Mayor Al Chelik has never worked in Scranton, but he said he's concerned about his constituents who do. He's asking other municipalities to raise money for a campaign he hopes will convince Scranton, and the judge who will consider the tax, to find another way to make money.

"I think that they have to address some systemic problems that they have, and not be looking to drag in, or expand their tax base throughout the surrounding communities," said Chelik.

Again, the commuter tax still needs to be finalized by a judge. The City of Scranton had a commuter tax back in the 90's but only for a period of three years.