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Sen. Farry Continues Fight for Rights of Mentally Disabled Workers

State Sen. Frank Farry, accompanied by Bucks County Representatives K.C. Tomlinson, Kristin Marcell, and Shelby Labs, highlighted employment choices for intellectually disabled workers at a press conference Tuesday at Associated Product Services.

A new report from the Joint State Government Commission mandated by a resolution that Farry (R-Bucks) authored when he was a state representative focuses on ensuring that people with disabilities and their families have choices.

Farry said there was “a war” on sheltered workplaces for people with disabilities in 2016 and 2017 and a push to change the rules.

“We had a huge rally at the Capitol,” he said. Workers, their families, and service providers came to the state house to advocate for “my work, my choice.”

“The Office of Developmental Programs, in their rate setting, actually penalizes operations like this for not having a community component,” Farry said. “I can tell you this is the community for the men and women standing behind me.  It’s a shame we’re still talking about this issue.”

Sen. Frank Farry with (far left) Reps. K.C. Tomlinson, Shelby Labs, and Kristin Marcell.

The 140-page study “reaffirms what we have heard from the people standing behind me, what we have heard from your families. And that is choice should be paramount, and government should not be interfering with that choice.”

“I think it’s important that we use this study moving forward as a blueprint to push back at the unelected bureaucrats who are making decisions to the detriment of the men and women behind me,” said Farry.

“It’s important to note there is a wide spectrum of people like my son who need specialized levels of support that’s not available at other centers of employment,” said Gail Thibodeau. Her son, Matt, has worked at Associated Produce Services for 17 years.

To fight for the employment program, Thibodeau and others “started writing a letter campaign to the Department of Human Services. And we wrote so many letters they asked us to stop writing letters. So we wrote more letters. And we did win that one.”

Farry and Gene DiGirolamo, formerly a state representative and now a Bucks County commissioner, fought the bureaucrats and others who wanted to end those programs where disabled people are paid to work in a supportive setting. Thibodeau noted they also continue to receive Social Security disability payments.

Thibodeau, of Middletown, is also involved in a national organization, the Coalition for the Preservation of Employment Choice, that fights to allow families and individuals to make employment choices.

“My son is filled with pride coming to work at APS  five days a week,” said Thibodeau. He learns new skills under the direction of caring support staff. He makes new friends. He loves his job so much that he’s our alarm clock each weekday.”

Matt Thibodeau added, “Good money! Good paycheck!”

Sharon and Bob DeNucci’s son, Bobby, has worked at APS for nine years.

“I can’t believe we’re still talking about this,” said Sharon DeNucci of Bristol.

“As a parent of an individual with disabilities, our job is never-ending. I’m not just here on behalf of my son but of all the individuals behind me. Every time I drop him off in the morning, I enjoy watching him and his coworkers as they arrive at work. They’re greeted by APS supervisor Mike, who always has a smile on his face.”

Bobby is “happy and excited to come to work…these employees work in a safe and supported environment…I truly believe they are respected for who they are, regardless of what they can do.  I hope they continue to have the choice for many years to come.”

Bobby DeNucci, 30, said, “Thank you all very much.”

Gail Thibodeau, with her son, Matt.

Sharon DeNucci said not every disabled person can work at a supermarket or other business. And as for the complaint that they’re not in a community, APS provides the community. The disabled workers enjoy each other’s company on breaks and at lunch. Bobby DeNucci also participates in Special Olympics and other programs.

APS was founded 47 years ago by Executive Director Jay Belding, a former special education teacher. It employs 385 people in six locations in the area, with 110 working at the Trevose building, where they were packing items into boxes shortly before the press conference. APS receives $4.5 million, about half its income, from the state, said Belding.

Belding said it was a fundamental American value to have a choice to “participate in the workaday world.”

“The APS model, as simply as I can put it, is, we’re here to learn and earn,” he said. “We are putting our workforce into an environment where they are participating in wage-earning activities. And while doing so, they’re learning the basic tenets of work, which include getting along with each other…to working together in the assembly line with everybody moving forward.”

He said the client-workers “form a true community” with the APS employees and each other. And just like anyone else, they take their $3 million in annual wages and spend it in the community.

“Although it seems antithetical, what we want to say is that we want to be one of the choices, and there are many. We believe that families should have a choice to ensure that their folks are participating in the workaday world in an environment that is challenging but safe, adaptive, flexible, and working together with the families, which, in the long run, strengthens the entire community,” said Belding.

Farry added that disabled people “should not be forced to participate in activities they have no interest in.”

“It’s not the ideas of bureaucrats in Harrisburg,” said Farry. “It is person-centered here. The number one recommendation (in the report) promotes freedom of choice. The desires and needs of an individual shall be paramount in all decisions.”

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Bucks State Reps, Sen. Farry To Introduce Expanded Criminal DNA Bill

Ashley Spence burst into tears when she heard a judge sentence the man who raped and nearly killed her to almost 138 years in prison.

“As I stood in the back of the courtroom and heard these words, my head fell into my hands, and I began to cry,” said Spence. “I cried for the pain. I cried for the justice that I finally felt after 13 long years. I cried for the protection I now felt, not just for myself but for my children. But mostly, I cried because I knew this man would never be able to harm another person again.”

In 2003, when Spence was 19 and a sophomore at Arizona State University, she moved into an apartment and went to bed “thinking that I was safe.”

But during the night, “while I was asleep, an intruder came into my apartment, suffocated my face with a pillow and began to tear off my clothes from the waist down…I thought it was a nightmare.”

Her assailant beat her and raped her while keeping a pillow over her face.

(From left) Sen. Frank Farry, Rep. K.C. Tomlinson, Sheriff Fred Harran, Ashley Spence, and Rep. Joe Hogan.

“The entire time, I could not see the face of the monster that was committing these horrific crimes against me,” Spence said. “I’m so fortunate I survived, but he got away, and I never saw his face.”

Spence spoke at a press conference called by Bucks County state Reps. Joe Hogan, K.C. Tomlinson, and Sen. Frank Farry, along with Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran, spoke about a new bill that would require DNA samples to be taken from people arrested for felonies and some misdemeanors.

Seven years after he raped her, Spence’s assailant was arrested for a different crime in California and linked to her attack through DNA. She founded the DNA Justice Project to push for states to change their laws so that DNA is taken for felony arrests, not just when a criminal is convicted. So far, 19 states do. Hogan, Tomlinson, Farry, and Harran want Pennsylvania to be next.

“This is something that we believe is important to the state of Pennsylvania,” said Hogan (R-Feasterville-Trevose). “Current law in Pennsylvania is that DNA is collected post-conviction for some crimes. The law notably excludes homicide (which is taken on arrest).”

The proposed law would require DNA collection for felony arrest. If a person is exonerated, their DNA will be taken out of the system. There is great potential for solving cold cases, like the Fairmount Park rapist, Hogan said. Just last year, DNA linked a suspect to several 2003 rapes and a murder.

“The changes we are proposing mean that when an individual is booked for one of these crimes, their DNA is taken at the same time as their fingerprint. These two procedures are fundamentally the same. But as we know, DNA is vastly more accurate,” said Hogan.

Tomlinson (R-Bensalem) said, “There is no denying we’ve all been seeing a steady rise in crime, not only in this state but across this country. Unfortunately, crime has become a real concern in my district. Over 40 percent of the individuals arrested and committing crime in my hometown do not even reside there.”

The DNA tests would also help prove a person was innocent, she added.

Farry (R-Bucks) said he would introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

“What we’ve seen is DNA is an incredible tool,” said Harran. “We’ve started doing some outside-the-box approaches using DNA, and we saw some significant crime reduction. But crime has been going up recently.”

“What I’ve found is in Pennsylvania, there’s a loophole,” said Harran, formerly Bensalem’s director of public safety. “We are one of 19 states that do not take DNA at the time of arrest, which is a mistake. DNA in Pennsylvania it’s taken once you’re convicted of a felony…That DNA that’s taken is way too late. We need to take DNA at the time of arrest…The Supreme Court has already talked about this in 2013 in a case (from) Maryland. DNA is just another tool. It’s probably one of the best tools I’ve seen in the last 38 years. We have some great crime reduction numbers to prove that.”

“In Lower Bucks County, 16 times we’ve used DNA to exonerate people,” said Harran. “This prevents crime. You’re getting criminals off the street immediately…And tomorrow, they will be one less victim out there.”

Spence said, “DNA is science. DNA is accurate. DNA is true.”

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State Senate Committees Zero In on Cybersecurity

The Bucks County Emergency Services Center CAD system spent nine days offline last month after hackers crashed it. Delaware County had a security breach in 2020. Hackers targeted the Aliquippa Water Authority in western Pennsylvania in November and disabled pressure monitoring equipment.

And over the weekend, Pennsylvania’s court system was hit with a disabling cyber attack.

In response to these and other threats to public agencies, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and Senate Local Government Committee met with representatives of municipal governments, industry, and academia last week to discuss threats to vital systems and infrastructure.

“An unfortunate reality of our world is that no organization is immune to a cyberattack,” said Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery/Berks), who chairs the Communications and Technology Committee. “The havoc and serious damage that these incursions can have on local governments, public authorities, and the people they serve are not only disruptive but also present a direct threat to public safety.”

Sen. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), who also serves as fire chief of the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company, said the Bucks County CAD system automatically dispenses first responders to addressees.

“Our dispatchers literally had to do it manually,” said Farry. “They did a fantastic job.” But it was not as fast as the CAD system and also impacted record-keeping, he said.

Executive Director of IT and Chief Information Officer for York County, Joe Sassano, said the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is working with counties to address the growing threat.

“In York County, cybersecurity needs have driven most of our IT-related projects and, subsequently, most of our IT budget for the last several years,” Sassano said. “CCAP, counties, other local government organizations, and state agencies are already working together closely to improve security definitions and implement vital cybersecurity initiatives, conducting reoccurring quarterly meetings, an annual cybersecurity conference, security resources, and other projects.”

“The weak spot, we found, is the human element,” said John Berti of the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association and the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority. Wyoming Valley implemented a “KnowBe4” security awareness service to help employees prevent email cyberattacks, he said.

Unisys, a corporation based in Blue Bell that provides security consulting services, sent two representatives to the hearing.

Unisys Regional Director John Alwine said many counties, cities, and other municipal entities “have learned the cost of not doing cyber security” and then trying to do damage control.

“The legislature and administration must seek out increased coordination amongst state IT users, foster greater recognition of security risks for state agencies, hold government IT leaders accountable in establishing a security path forward, and provide the resources necessary to implement such a strategy,” Alwine said.

Unisys Managing Principal Clifford Shier said, “There is a need for a statewide baseline.” The state, counties, and municipalities are all connected, as well as various vendors that log into systems.

Also, entities need to know what they have.

“Identification of what you have is key,” said Shier. He has “heard many times (someone) didn’t know this end-of-life piece of equipment is on (their) network or where (their) data was.”

Because protection may not be perfect and hackers, including hostile governments like Iran, try to break in, they must also plan for recovery.

“There will be a time you need to recover,” said Shier. “Don’t get rid of backups.”

Alwine said, “We need to develop a plan, fund it, execute it, and update it on a continual basis.”

Sen. Tim Kearney (D-Delaware), minority chair of the Local Government Committee, said, “It’s important for our communities to stay on top of this issue.”

“It’s going to require people to agree to the baseline (of security measures),” he said, and called on people to work together on the issue for  the “public good.”

“Somebody in York County might have an effect in Delaware County. We, as a society, have trouble with that. My county had a security breach, ransomware. They had insurance for it. They tried to keep it as quiet as possible. Nobody wants to talk about it,” Kearney said.

The Communications and Technology Committee recently approved a bill to protect information on state-owned devices from downloading and using TikTok. The full Senate passed that bill.

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SEPTA Violence Inspires Farry, Tartaglione Bill Protecting Transit Workers

SEPTA bus driver Bernard Gribbin was shot and killed while driving on his route in the Germantown section of Philadelphia last month. Police charged a woman passenger with his murder.

A bill named for Gribbin, a U.S. Army veteran, sponsored by state Sens. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) and Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) that would make it a crime to interfere with a mass transit operator passed the Senate transportation committee unanimously this week. Senate Bill 977 would make it a felony of the third degree. If a person commits an aggravated assault against an operator, the penalty would be a felony of the first degree.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in threats and assaults against transit workers in Pennsylvania – especially Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operators – including gun violence, physical assaults, and other disruptions.

“Our hope is this legislation will not only help safeguard our transit operators so they can safely do their job but protect passengers and other commuters on the roadway,” Farry said. “The bill is named after U.S. Army veteran Bernard Gribbin – a SEPTA bus operator who was murdered while working on Oct. 26. Operators deserve our protection.”

While the COVID-19 lockdowns are long over, John Golden, a spokesman for SEPTA, said the transit system is still feeling the impacts. SEPTA’s daily ridership is around 700,000 daily riders, or 70 percent of their pre-pandemic ridership.

However, despite Gribbin’s murder, crime on SEPTA vehicles has been going down.

“We are seeing progress in efforts to reduce criminal incidents, driven by efforts to hire new officers and adjust patrol strategies,” said Golden. For the quarter that ended Sept. 30, serious crimes were down 6 percent, serious violent crimes like robbery and aggravated assaults were down 31 percent, and criminal assaults on employees were down 62 percent.

Perhaps not coincidentally, arrests increased by 5 percent.

Also, “more customers are reporting incidents via the SEPTA Transit Watch App, which we have been encouraging. This is a great resource for customers to discretely communicate with SEPTA Transit Police about anything they see that is of concern.”

SETA officials expressed their gratitude for the legislation.

“SEPTA is grateful for the efforts of Sens. Farry and Tartaglione for leading this bipartisan effort to increase the penalties for those who assault bus and rail operators,” said SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. “There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our employees and customers.”

Bucks Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Crack Down on Crime

After a surge in suburban crime — including a 130 percent increase in firearms offenses — a group of Bucks County lawmakers led by GOP Sen. Frank Farry are sponsoring legislation to fight back.

“Every day when you turn on the news, those of us in the Philadelphia media market see what’s going on,” said Farry. “You see different and evolving crimes happening in our communities and our neighboring communities. We think it’s our responsibility, as public figures, to step forward and make sure proper statutes are on the books to help the men and women in law enforcement have the tools they need to do their jobs.”

And they had plenty of backup from the local police. About two dozen police representatives from Bucks and Montgomery Counties were on hand at Thursday’s press conference Thursday outside the Northampton Township Police Department to endorse their efforts.

Lawmakers are introducing the bills because of “feedback we’ve heard from law enforcement, feedback we’ve heard from victims, feedback from our communities, and feedback we’ve heard from prosecutors,” said Farry. “We want to ensure that law enforcement has the proper tools in their tool chest to be able to properly charge crimes that will ultimately lead to convictions.”

Warrington Police Chief Daniel Friel, president of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Bucks County, said, “We’ve seen increases in nearly every category of crime that affects the average citizen or business owner. These categories include robbery, burglary, thefts from vehicles, retail thefts, thefts of catalytic converters, and firearms thefts…We have seen a 32 percent increase in thefts from vehicles since last year (and) a 28 percent increase over the average of the past three years. Theft of catalytic converters in Warrington Township is up 85 percent since last year, and again, that’s a 237 percent increase over the past three-year average.”

Perhaps most disturbing, “There’s already a 130 percent increase in firearms offenses, which is an 89 percent increase over the past three years,” said Friel.

And illegal car meetup rallies have become common in Bucks County, overwhelming municipal police forces, he said.

The bills include mandatory jail time for illegally possessing a firearm, cracking down on porch pirates, reducing catalytic converter robberies, increasing penalties for gun store robberies, putting the brakes on vehicle meetup rallies, and enhanced charges for rioters.

Warrington Police Chief Daniel Friel speaks with Bensalem Public Safety Director William McVey, Rep. K.C. Tomlinson (left), and Rep. Kristin Marcell (right).

Bensalem Public Safety Director William McVey called them “common sense.”

“First, mandatory jail time for illegal gun possession is absolutely needed in Pennsylvania,” he said. “In Bensalem, we’ve experienced a 75 percent increase in illegal guns. We’ve seized 174 illegal guns in that timeframe. More distressing is the fact we’ve arrested 21 convicted felons for illegally possessing a firearm this year to date.”

“Without strong penalties, these felons are often released and go back to carrying illegal guns,” he said. “And worse, they use the illegal guns on innocent victims.”

And catalytic converter theft is booming. One Bensalem business had 58 catalytic converters stolen from its fleet of vehicles, which cost more than $100,000 to replace. When officers see someone with a truckload of catalytic converters, they can’t charge them “even when they have no legitimate purpose to carry them.”

“And the car meetups, the drifting, it’s absolutely crazy,” said McVey. “They’ve popped up in our jurisdictions. They overtake areas. They have no regard for anyone’s safety.”

Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Wrightstown) thanked Farry for shepherding the porch pirates bill, which increases penalties for that type of theft, through the Senate. It awaits passage in the House.

“Especially with the holiday season, where more people are relying on mail-order purchases, it’s more important than ever to protect consumers and to think about how we can help,” she said. She said that stealing boxes from people’s porches is not a victimless crime. For example, it could be medicine ordered by an elderly person that’s stolen.

Afterward, Marcell told DVJournal that Democratic Reps. Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) and Ed Ne9lson (D-Philadelphia) are also sponsors.

Rep. Joe Hogan (R-Langhorne) said, “What’s happening in our cities right now is a choice. The decline, the prosecutorial decisions, is a choice…to allow violent criminals to be released out on bail to go back and commit more crimes. This morning, I learned that an individual who was picked up in the burglary and the rioting two days ago was released on bail on a murder three charge. (They were) right back out committing more crimes.”

Hogan introduced a bill in response to crooks who robbed a gun store in Langhorne in the middle of the night.

“If you rob a gun store and steal guns, you are going to jail for a mandatory minimum of time,” said Hogan. “We’re going to take that decision away from these prosecutors who are letting our cities fall into chaos, and we’re going to make sure that if that crime is committed, you are going to jail, and you’re going to be there a long time.”

Rep. K.C. Tomlinson (R-Bensalem) said, “Nearly 40 percent of the crime committed in Bensalem is not committed by Bensalem residents but by individuals crossing over the border from Philadelphia. Sadly, the city continues to send a message of tolerance. I stand here today with my colleagues and law enforcement to make our message very clear: Bucks County will not tolerate what’s going on in the city.”

“We will always fight to maintain the quality of life we enjoy here in Bucks County,” Tomlinson said.

DelVal Dems Block Bill to Bring Wage Taxes Back to Commuter Communities

A proposal to send some of Philadelphia’s city wage tax back to the suburban cities and towns where commuters live has made it through the GOP-controlled state Senate. Now its fate is in the hands of Delaware Valley Democrats, who could cross the aisle and pass the law, but are currently sitting on the sidelines.

Philadelphia currently takes 3.44 percent of wages from everyone who works in Philadelphia – regardless of where they live. That includes people whose company is in Philadelphia but who work remotely, often at home in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

Even commuters who have stopped commuting have the tax automatically taken out of their paychecks.

“Because residents who live in surrounding municipalities but work in Philadelphia pay all of their local income tax to the city rather a portion to their home municipality, the tax burden is greater for non-Philadelphia workers of those municipalities,” said Sen. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne).

Philadelphia is the only Pennsylvania city with a wage tax that doesn’t remit it back to out-of-town communities.

That was one reason why the Senate approved SB 671. also known as the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Farry. His bill would return 1 percent of the 3.44 percent to workers’ home cities and townships if they have an earned income tax.

“Why should Philadelphia be treated differently?” Farry told DVJournal. “When COVID struck, and the governor and the mayor made work-from-home orders, residents still had to pay the tax. It made no sense because they weren’t working in Philadelphia.”

Farry sees it as a double taxation issue. He said communities have to make up the tax money that Philadelphia withholds from them due to the City Wage Tax. According to Farry, Bensalem loses $2.5 million in tax dollars because of the more than 5,000 residents who work in Philadelphia.

“Everybody has to make up for that shortfall. And for the residents that live in Bensalem but work in [Philadelphia], they’re still paying the tax. They just don’t get any of the benefit of it back in their home community,” Farry said.

Philadelphia officials aren’t exactly known for showing brotherly love toward out-of-town community governments or residents on the wage tax issue. As DVJournal has previously reported, Philadelphia’s vague guidelines during the pandemic made it difficult for some workers to tell if they were exempt from the tax or not. It is also up to workers to apply for a tax refund.

That has rankled mayors and township managers outside Philadelphia.

“While every other municipality in the commonwealth must reimburse earned income tax revenues collected from non-residents to the home municipalities of those non-residents, Philadelphia is alone in its ability to keep for itself, both the earned income tax of its residents and all of the non-residents who work in the city,” said Bensalem Mayor Joseph DeGirolamo in May when the Commuter Tax Fairness Act originally passed.

“[W]ithout having to remit any portion or percentage of those non-resident revenues back to the home municipality of those non-residents.”

The bill is currently stuck in the House, where Democrats took control with a one-vote majority last year. With the partisan balance currently tied at 101-101, it would only take a single House Democrat to cross the aisle to give the legislation a majority in the House.

However, Democrats representing the Philadelphia suburbs appear to be following the lead of House leadership and are declining to back the bill.

DVJournal reached out to Democrats in the Delaware Valley delegation and asked if they would support the wage tax bill in the House. Reps. Tim Brennan (D-Doylestown), Tina Davis (D-Levittown), John Galloway (D-Levittown), Steven Malagari (D-Lansdale), and Brian Monroe (D-Warminster) all declined to answer.

Tax reform groups believe the Senate made the right decision by passing the bill and hope the Democratic-controlled House will follow suit. “Blue cities have been relying on bailout dollars and taxes from people who don’t live within their borders and sometimes never set foot there,” said Douglas Kellogg, state projects director at Americans for Tax Reform.

“The Commuter Tax Fairness Act is a simple, more sensible division of tax revenue, but it could have a major impact as a wakeup call to Philadelphia leaders to stop over-relying on funds from taxpayers who don’t live there and start fixing the issues that are driving tens of thousands of residents to flee. “

Farry said he would keep pushing until his bill passes.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere, so it will keep being brought up,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot from the business community about it. They have concerns with the way the city acts as well in terms of processes and taxation and whatnot…I wouldn’t want to be a House member in the majority and not have this issue come up to be addressed for the residents of my community.”

Farry thinks that a lot of central Pennsylvania politicians don’t realize that some of their constituents pay Philadelphia’s wage tax. too. “Apparently, a lot of people from central Pennsylvania jump on Amtrak out there and come into the city. So, [a legislator] was finding out from her home communities [that they] aren’t getting their fair share back.”

The Pennsylvania House is scheduled to reconvene on September 26.

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Farry’s Commuter Fairness Plan Passes Senate, But Likely to Die in House

Hoping to keep some Delaware Valley taxes local so municipalities can avoid raising real estate taxes, the state Senate passed the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank Farry.

The bill, which was approved 28-21 on Wednesday, would make the Philadelphia City Wage Tax more equitable for non-residents. But its future in the Democrat-controlled House is dicey.

Currently, the city wage tax of 3.44 percent is imposed on salaries, wages, commissions, and other compensation paid to employees working for a Philadelphia employer. Non-residents – even those who work remotely and never set foot in the city – must pay the full Philadelphia City Wage Tax if their employer is based in the city.

“Because residents who live in surrounding municipalities but work in Philadelphia pay all of their local income tax to the city rather a portion to their home municipality, the tax burden is greater for non-Philadelphia workers of those municipalities,” said Farry (R-Bucks). “My bill would keep a fair share of tax dollars local. Your local tax dollars should be used to help your community.”

With the passage of the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, the Philadelphia City Wage Tax for non-residents would remain at 3.44 percent, but 1 percent could be remitted to the workers’ home municipalities for municipalities with an earned income tax. That would put Philadelphia in line with more than 2,500 other local governments.

“As a formal municipal official, I know how difficult the financial challenges are for local governments and first responders. Because of Philadelphia’s City Wage Tax, millions of dollars are diverted from the municipalities where our residents live – resulting in higher taxes for basic services like fire, police, and emergency medical services,” Farry said.

Robert Pellegrino, Northampton Township manager, said, “Many suburban Philadelphia communities are also dealing with a lack of volunteer firefighters and are transitioning to full-time paid fire services that will require a significant financial investment in personnel and equipment.”

“While every other municipality in the commonwealth must reimburse earned income tax revenues collected from non-residents to the home municipalities of those non-residents, Philadelphia is alone in its ability to keep for itself, both the earned income tax of its residents and all of the non-residents who work in the city, without having to remit any portion or percentage of those non-resident revenues back to the home municipality of those non-residents,” said Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Philadelphia Finance Director Rob Dubow testified the loss of those funds would be devastating to the city.

“This estimated $190 million revenue loss would force the city to make painful cuts or to substantially increase taxes. Either of those actions would damage the Southeastern Pennsylvania region,” said Dubow. “For example, the amount of lost revenue would equate roughly to Philadelphia’s combined spending for commerce and economic stimulus activities, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, and the Convention Center, all of which drive growth, attract visitors, and benefit the larger region.

“The potential approximately $190 million loss in revenue is nearly double Philadelphia’s $110 million annual subsidy to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). If the city were to impose tax increases in an attempt to compensate for the lost revenue, those increases would likely drive away jobs and businesses that help generate economic activity for the entire region. Whether the city had to make these potential cuts or tax increases in one year or five years if the credits were phased in, the impact would be equally devastating. In either case, the city would need to take dramatic action just to avoid crippling deficits,” Dubow said.

John Featherman, a Philadelphia resident and Republican who ran for mayor said he believes the bill will die in the House.

“So let’s do the math,” Featherman told DVJournal. “The non-resident wage tax is 3.44 percent, and 1 percent represents roughly 29 percent of that tax. Democrats claim that this bill will take away approximately $190 million in tax revenues from Philadelphia. Republicans dispute that number and think it’s inflated. It probably is.

“The common ground is both sides know long-term changes in workplace culture — due primarily to COVID-19 changing the way we work — are likely to hurt Philly’s ability to keep that full 3.44 percent moving forward. The work-from-home trend isn’t going away, and unless the next mayor of Philadelphia can convince suburban workers to move in Philly and city workers not to move to the suburbs (good luck), Philadelphia will continue to lose its tax base.

“Likely, the slim Democratic majority in the House will defeat this bill,” said Featherman. “But it will gain life again moving forward and will pass if the GOP regains the House. The only measures Philadelphia can do to protect this job-killing tax is to change its industrial-era tax code to attract more businesses to the city (e.g., eliminate the gross receipts tax) and make Philadelphia a safer place to live and work. That’s a mighty task for Democrats to achieve in a city that’s continually in the news for violent crime.”

A former Plymouth Township councilman, Vince Gillen, said, “I’d say it’s reasonable in today’s world since many people are now working remotely or on a hybrid schedule. Personally, I’d rather my tax money come back to the community where I live as opposed to a large city.”

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