AVI Without Tears

I have an op-ed in today’s Daily News about AVI. I think the argument there is correct, but it is highly compressed. I’ve tried to set out my argument at a little greater length here. (Note that in the op-ed and in this piece I made a mistake and said that AVI shifts the tax burden from residential to commercial property. It does the opposite. I’ve corrected it here. Councilman Green’s proposals minimize the shift.) So much has gone wrong in the city’s move to the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), that many people are fearful about its consequence. And one of the things that has gone wrong is that people who know better are playing on this fear for their political purposes, I think the fear is over blown. AVI is a good thing if it is implemented properly and I think it can be implemented properly this year. Continue reading

Homeowners, Don’t Fight the AVI—It’s Good for You

 Originally published in the Daily News, May 29, 2012 A great fear seems to have come over the city as the heavy footsteps of a monster called AVI come ever closer to us. It’s time to recognize, however, that that monster is a friendly creature who will benefit most of us. Partly because tax matters are hard to understand and partly because Mayor Nutter wants to raise more revenue for schools from the real-estate tax, public discussion of AVI — Actual Value Initiative — has become confused. No one trusts any government, and some people in office or thinking of running for office can’t resist the temptation to be demagogues about any issue. So, the confusion has created the false belief that AVI is just a tax increase in disguise. We desperately need to get back to some basics: AVI is about tax fairness. And, under it, most Philadelphians will see … Continue reading

Not Such a Big Deal

Tom Ferrick wrote an insightful, useful but in some respects strange article about Philadelphia taxes in Metropolis the other day. There is a lot to be learned from him it and as much to be learned from understanding where it goes wrong. (This is the second time in a few weeks I’ve disagreed with Ferrick so let me just say that he’s one of the few writers on Philadelphia politics who is truly indispensable. He make me think hard when I disagree with him. If you don’t read Metropolis, you should.) The end of The Deal Ferrick argues that in moving to AVI, Philadelphia is about to undo what he calls “The Deal.” The Deal is the implicit bargain that the city has made with homeowners: we will pay a stiff wage tax which people don’t pay in the suburbs as well as an extra 2% in sales taxes. But in … Continue reading

What Do Do-Nothing Legislators Do?

There is a class of legislators who pundits sometime pick on for not being “effective.” They are politicians who typically stand a little to the left (for Democrats) or right (for Republicans) of their party. Then tend to come from relatively well-off, safe districts. Their constituents are more ideological than most and less in need of the pork barrel projects that are the stock in trade of other legislators. And they often serve in the minority party in the legislature, so they have little impact day to day legislative business. That gives them some freedom to push the envelope on policy by taking stands in advance of public opinion. Sometimes they push the envelope simply by being who they are—a woman, an out gay or lesbian, or the member of some other minority. These politicians are often criticized because they don’t have a lot of legislative achievements. They don’t have … Continue reading