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More tax increases won't fix what ails the economy in Philly

Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Steven Bradley is chairman of the African American Chamber of Commerce

Rob Wonderling

is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

Steven Bradley

is chairman of the African American Chamber of Commerce

Philadelphia has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, next to Detroit. One of the key reasons: decades of jobs lost to our suburbs and other states. Today, 42 percent of city residents leave the city to go to their jobs - outside Philadelphia. We're moving in the wrong direction.

Why have jobs been leaving the city?

In the last four years alone, City Council has raised taxes six times - by $275 million. These tax increases have a chilling economic effect and add costs on every business - the generators of jobs for our citizens.

In 2012, Council voted to raise the Use and Occupancy tax on businesses in Philadelphia by 19 percent - a $20 million increase. This month, a bill was approved by a Council committee to raise the Use and Occupancy tax - again - by an additional 20 percent. Is it any wonder there are six times more office jobs on the Lower Merion side of City Avenue than the Philadelphia side?

Over the last few months, Council has proposed a set of measures to generate new revenue for the city - without raising taxes. Council held hearings to examine how the city collects delinquent property taxes - a total exceeding $500 million. Our Chambers support this initiative. We can do better collecting from delinquent taxpayers. It's only fair.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke introduced a bill to create a new chief revenue generation officer for Philadelphia, to seek innovative ways to raise revenue for the city - without raising taxes. Our Chambers support this - as well as Mayor Nutter's appointment of a chief revenue collections officer to better coordinate efforts to collect every delinquent tax due.

Our Chambers also support Clarke's proposal to allow advertising on city property. This idea would generate millions in revenue - again, without raising taxes.

When every spring brings another tax increase, whether it is the property tax, the Use and Occupancy tax, or another tax, it sends a signal to job creators that our city might not be the most conducive place to set up shop. Tax increases act like a neon "Do Not Enter" sign for innovators and entrepreneurs seeking the best place to create businesses - and jobs.

So when a narrow slice of our citizenry - office-building tenants - are asked for the second consecutive year through a Use and Occupancy tax hike to shoulder the burden for a broad-based public need - adequate funding for public education - we cannot and do not support that.

We firmly believe there is nothing more important than giving every child in Philadelphia a quality education, and helping them achieve their fullest potential as productive citizens.

As the Greater Philadelphia Chamber's CEO, I served on the committee that led to the School Reform Commission's selection of William R. Hite Jr. as school superintendent. Both Chambers strongly support Hite.

We also worked closely with the new SRC leadership to recently help the district secure $300 million in financing, as the SRC did everything possible to reduce its deficit to manageable levels.

As we have done on countless occasions, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber and the African American Chamber stand together, ready to assist Council, the mayor, and the School District gain support from Harrisburg to ensure our children receive a thorough, quality education in our schools.

Tax increases negatively affect business decisions, hiring, and our economy. If we are to grow jobs and provide opportunity for all in Philadelphia, we must work together to find sustainable, long-term solutions to meet the needs of our businesses and our schools.