A quiet campaign is currently underway to increase taxes on consumers in four central Pennsylvania counties. By granting elected officials in those counties the power to create a Regional Asset District (RAD), the Pennsylvania General Assembly would allow an increase in sales and/or other local taxes in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties.
Central Pennsylvania RAD tax proponents point to Allegheny County’s experience with a RAD tax as a model and claim that the additional tax revenue in central Pennsylvania would:
- Fund a regional commuter rail system;
- Financially support myriad cultural and recreational projects that heavily rely on taxpayer funding for operation; and
- Improve central Pennsylvania’s economic future. A closer examination of the claims made by the RAD tax supporters, however, reveals that the assumptions about the potential impact of such a district are flawed.
A closer examination of the claims made by the RAD tax supporters, however, reveals that the assumptions about the potential impact of such a district are flawed. Claims about Allegheny County’s supposed economic “success” since implementing its RAD tax increase are not supported by the evidence. Neither are the assertions that a commuter rail line will relieve traffic congestion and air pollution in central Pennsylvania, or that “investing” taxpayer dollars in cultural and recreational “assets” will attract businesses and workers to the region.
Increasing taxes and creating one more government authority to dispense tax dollars for politically chosen economic development projects would simply push Pennsylvania further down the failed path it has taken for the past several decades. Instead of seeking to increase taxes on businesses and residents, central Pennsylvania political, business and civic leaders should instead work to make the area more attractive for private investment by cutting taxes, reining in government spending, and finding ways to improve the transportation facilities that the vast majority of the region’s commuters actually use—its highway and arterial transportation network.