Testimony Concludes In Commuter Tax Hearing

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SCRANTON -- Testimony at the Lackawanna County Courthouse wrapped up late Monday morning in a fight against Scranton's commuter tax.

Scranton wants to tax people who work in the city, but live elsewhere. It's a move to get Scranton and its pension plans back on solid financial footing.

Opponents claim Scranton isn't following state law.

Testimony began on Friday at the Lackawanna County Courthouse.

The case against Scranton's commuter tax is now in the hands of visiting judge from Philadelphia. Attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments Monday morning and the judge promised a timely decision.

Attorneys for both sides hope they'll hear by the end of the day whether the commuter tax will go into effect on Wednesday.

A team of Scranton city officials say they know a commuter tax isn't really well received but in court they made their case that they can levy such a tax, and they need to.

"Right, it's unpopular and it's not something we want to have to do. It's just necessary at this time and it's one of the tools we have under the law to raise money for the pension plans," said city solicitor Jason Shrive.

This summer, the mayor and city council approved the.75 percent tax on people who work in Scranton but live outside the city.

Under a specific state law, Scranton plans to use the money over three years to help fix the pension funds, funding retirement for Scranton police, firefighters, and other city employees.

"It's one of the most important things we do in our recovery plan right now. If we don't shore up the city's pensions, that money has to come from our general fund. That would be a slippery slope to receivership or bankruptcy if we cannot fund those pensions," Shrive said.

More than 50 of those commuters sued the city, saying a commuter tax is taxation without representation. Their attorney says they also have a sound legal argument. They claim city officials rushed the city council vote to adopt the tax.

"The last ad ran on a Wednesday, the council passed it on a Thursday, and the mayor signed it on a Friday. The week did not end," said the petitioners' attorney Bill Jones.

The interpretation of sunshine laws was up for debate in court, but it was clear that a commuter tax is unpopular, even amongst city residents.

"I blame the seven elected officials: the five city council members, the mayor, and the city controller for the past 50 years. They were the ones who allowed this to happen, not the commuters," said Scranton resident Bill Jackowitz.

There is no word on when we will hear from the judge about a decision, but city officials hope it's soon. They are supposed to start taxing commuters on Wednesday.