Two Sides to the Valley: Taxes

By Michelle G. Young, Executive Vice President, Government and External Affairs Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

“If you don’t drink, smoke or drive a car, you’re a tax evader.”  So said the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas S. Foley.
Thank God I drive a car!

A little humor to kick off this article on taxes is necessary.  I felt I had to do something to pull you in on such an important, yet dry topic. Unfortunately, in a civilized society, taxes are inevitable. “How much?” and “For what?” are questions we can debate.

At the federal level you will be hearing the word “tax” a lot – and for good reason! This nation’s tax code is a lot of things, but “pro-growth,” which means good jobs for all of us, is not one of those things. Business taxes need to be lowered in order for businesses to invest more in the company as well as the employees.

If you asked a business owner (small or large) “What are your three wishes for inclusion in a reformed tax code?”
I bet you would hear simplicity, clarity and permanency.

But taxes at the federal level are not the only concern. The state of Pennsylvania is ranked 45th in the nation when it comes to being business-friendly and when evaluating the number of entrepreneurs per capita we are 49th according to a 2017 article by Gene Marks in Philadelphia Magazine.

So, where does all of that tax money go?  The answer is 87 percent of Pennsylvania’s $32 billion budget goes to our prison system, debt, human services and education. That only leaves 13 percent of the budget for everything else. And, the budget for those four areas has increased almost $4 billion in six years. That is not sustainable.

When I speak with small business owners I hear over and over again that each time a tax is increased on them, costs go up for you and capital is limited, taking away the opportunity to grow the business and hire more employees. This trend must be reversed in order for our state and nation to be competitive.

By Mike Schlossberg, State Representative, 132nd District (D)

I have a bit of a confession to make: I am tired of a one-sided argument about taxes. The truth, ugly though it may be to some, is that taxes aren’t willy-nilly spending, they are a shared investment in our future. Taxes fund the schools that educate our children and create future workers. They pay for the roads and bridges that we drive on everyday. They ensure we have clean air, healthy food and pure water. They also fund the services that take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.

Does that mean we should just run around with a magic tax wand, bopping various fees and levies on everything in sight?

Of course not. There is nothing good or progressive about asking people to invest one dime more than necessary in their government. But, what we should do is ensure that our tax system is fair, and that those who have the ability to do so, contribute more to our common good.

This means asking companies that profit richly off of our natural resources to pay their fair share. This means asking all corporations who do business in Pennsylvania to pay a corporate tax, the same way we ask all of our residents to. This also means that those who have more – those who have been more successful as a result of the shared investment we all make in our government – should contribute more to our general welfare.

If you are reading this article, odds are you have achieved at least some measure of success in your life. Getting to that success you likely learned that no one individual is an island unto themselves; your community, government and countless others helped make you who you are today. The ladder of success, which you climbed has to remain firmly in place for those who are still climbing.

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