Pennsylvania mayors have voiced their frustrations with public sector unions forcing counties to pay higher wages even as they face budget constraints. Inevitably, that has led to higher taxes, such as a 25% increase in Lancaster county’s property tax. Salaries – not to mention medical benefits and pensions – among public sector employees such as police officers and firefighters have increased at a rate far greater than inflation.
The stranglehold of unions on state coffers is certainly an increasing burden for taxpayers. Mayors, though, are no less to blame. Many got themselves into other budgetary problems at the outset. For instance, with the burden of ever-increasing pension contributions, Philadelphia is attempting to writhe itself out of a financial crisis. Philadelphia, along with many other Pennsylvania municipalities, has been transferring its pension and retiree health-care liabilities to the next generation for many years. Philadelphia is burdening its taxpayers with a higher sales tax than the rest of Pennsylvania to try to solve a fiscal mess.
Pittsburgh is also seeking novel ideas to generate new revenue, thanks to its continual out-of-control spending. Mayor Ravenstahl came up with a scheme to collect a 1% tuition tax on the city’s financially-strapped college students to cover up his spend-thrift ways.