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Why Philadelphia punted on tax abatement reform … again

There is talk now about action in the fall.

Council member Helen Gym
Council member Helen Gym (NewsWorks file photo)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Councilmember Helen Gym said that when City Council reconvenes this fall, reforming Philadelphia’s 10-year property tax abatement will be her top priority. Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration and City Council President Darrell Clarke also said they anticipate robust debate about the issue.

Suggestions for reform range from total elimination of the subsidy to a proposal that would marginally reduce its value. Will any of these actually happen? Unclear.

It’s been over 13 months since Gym first introduced bills to reform the abatement — sparking a wave of other suggestions for changing the subsidy. Its fate became one of the touchstone issues in the May municipal elections, with almost all candidates arguing it needed to be changed.

But when Council’s spring session concluded last month, none of the six pending abatement reform bills had received so much as a hearing.

Asked why not, Gym refused to place blame on specific actors.

“Obviously, I believe they should have been heard and it’s time for them to be heard,” she told PlanPhilly. “This summer going into the fall we need a lot more public discussion.”

Building consensus is also the excuse given by the Kenney administration for why action has not yet been taken.

“Councilmembers have been meeting with stakeholders on abatement reform as well as with members in the Kenney administration,” wrote Patricia Gillett, a spokesperson for Clarke, in an email message. “The Council President’s Office anticipates that there will be a legislative package that includes abatement reform on Council’s fall agenda.”

Read the rest of this story at WHYY News

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