Time to confront Philly’s jobless rate

As a new City Council session gets underway, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Nutter Administration and members of City Council on a shared agenda of economic growth and job creation.

While businesses throughout the region are seeing moderate growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the city continues to lose jobs. In 2010, the city had an average of 657,000 jobs. In July of this year, that number declined to 648,400. And as the nation’s unemployment rate continues to drop slightly to 8.3 percent, Philadelphia’s hovers at an alarmingly high 11.1 percent.

Since the mid-1990s, the City’s Five-Year Financial Plan has acknowledged that Philadelphia’s unusually high tax rates make it difficult for the city to compete with other jurisdictions in attracting and retaining businesses and residents. In 1996, Philadelphia began a program of annual, incremental cuts in the Wage Tax, Earnings Tax, Net Profits Tax, School Income Tax, and gross receipts portion of the Business Income and Receipts Tax. In 2003, the Tax Reform Commission laid out the facts: Philadelphia’s tax rates are substantially higher than those of other major cities and nearby suburban municipalities.

We believe now is the time to rejuvenate our local economy by renewing the commitment to reduce taxes on employers and employees.

This year, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and its roughly 5,000 members are supporting efforts which we believe will help grow our economy. First and foremost, we support the long promised wage and business tax reductions. If we are to truly unleash Philadelphia’s entrepreneur spirit and grow jobs, we must further reduce these onerous taxes. Additionally, we support the implementation of Actual Value Initiative (AVI), as well as the sale of assets to provide one-time pension relief. We believe these efforts, taken together, will help provide additional resources for much needed city services.

In an effort to generate additional revenue, the Chamber also supports legislation to create a city land bank. With more than 40,000 vacant lots and buildings in the City of Philadelphia, action is needed now to bring them back into use. The City annually spends $20 million to maintain vacant and blighted properties, which fail to generate much needed revenue for the City.

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce works to attract, retain and grow jobs for companies and residents of the region. We believe that future job growth in our region will be driven by the for-profit and non-profit sectors.

If you have a business in the city we would love to hear from you about how a reduction in the wage and business taxes would help your business grow. Please contact me at [email protected]. For more information about the Chamber’s public policy agenda, please visit relayphilly.com.

– Rob Wonderling is the president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. His column runs the second Wednesday of every month.