County to Easton: Reject Commuter Tax
Northampton County Council says proposed Easton commuter tax is unfair to county workers.
Northampton County Council has approved a resolution asking the city of Easton to reject a proposed commuter tax.
Easton hopes to use the money generated by the tax to pay its pension costs.
But county officials say the tax -- which would levy a 1.75 percent fee to people who commute into, but don't live in, the city -- is unfair to county employees.
"To tax employees for someone else's pension is a tough pill to swallow," said county Executive John Stoffa.
County Controller Steve Barron said the tax would affect about 800 employees, and generate roughly $250,000.
The resolution was proposed by Council President John Cusick, who lives in Williams Township. He said that earlier in the day, he'd been reading the Declaration of Independence, and focused on the "taxation without representation" line.
"I think that's a clear example of what we see going on here," Cusick said. "Budgets to me involve choices. What's unfortunate here…is the employees of this county are a target for a tax they have no control over."
No one from the city attended the meeting, a fact that angered Councilman Lamont McClure.
"When you're trying to capture this kind of tax money out of our employees, why wouldn't they talk to us about this?" he said.
Councilman Robert Werner, an Easton resident, noted that Mayor Sal Panto was out of town. He said he'd spoken with the mayor, and understands Easton has a dilemma.
"I'm not happy about this. However I realize also the city is doing what it has to do to survive," Werner said.
But that wasn't enough to convince Werner to vote against the resolution, which passed 8-0. (Councilwoman Barbara Thierry was absent.)
Cusick noted that the commuter tax affects other issues, such as the question of whether the county should move its services at the Governor Wolf Building out of Easton. That's something Cusick has opposed in the past.
"How can I make that argument anymore when moving out would benefit our employees?" he asked.
Easton is scheduled to hold a public meeting devoted to the commuter tax on Monday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at the council chambers in city hall.