HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Harrisburg residents were hit with a court-mandated income tax increase Monday when a state judge sided with the financial receiver who is managing the city and ordered the City Council to double the earned income tax.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter said raising the rate from 1 percent to 2 percent was a critical component of the debt-strapped state capital's recovery plan. Someone who earns $50,000 would see a $500 tax increase.
She said courts generally should not intrude into such a legislative task under the separation-of-powers doctrine, but that can be appropriate under "compelling circumstances."
"Here the council has failed to act to alleviate an emergent fiscal threat to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens and threatened the ability of the city government to function," Leadbetter wrote. She denied the state's request that the council allocate $75,000 to pay the salary of Bob Philbin, Mayor Linda Thompson's director of communications.
Philbin said Thompson welcomed the court's tax decision.
"This will help in a number of ways — it will generate revenue when it's fully functional, revenue in the vicinity of $6 million a year," Philbin said. He declined comment on his own salary but said he would continue working for the city.
Council member Brad Koplinski, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, said the council will consider whether to appeal.
"It puts an undue burden on the citizens of Harrisburg," Koplinski said. "They did not get us into this mess, and they should not be expected to get us out. We still need a global solution with shared pain."
Leadbetter ordered the City Council to enact the one-year, temporary increase within 15 days. The revenue it raises may only be used to fund services essential to public health, safety or welfare.
Harrisburg was placed under receivership by the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett in March in response to the city's dire finances, a situation driven primarily by disastrous financing related to its trash incinerator.