the long view: solve for x (6 January 2015)

Solve for X
Dr. Walter Greason
Norristown Times Herald
6 January 2015

Norristown is not just a municipality.  As the county seat of Montgomery County, it has a unique role in the future of Pennsylvania.  After almost 80 years of suburban sprawl, Norristown is a regional economic capitol.  It is one of the most important leaders to create new ways to promote economic growth across the United States.  At the heart of the debates around future policy is the question of taxation.  With a growing population of senior citizens and an influx of Chicano migrants, Norristown has an opportunity this year to create a prosperous, regional middle class.

Property taxes are insufficient to make the metropolitan area competitive in the global marketplace.  The first step should be a freeze in the property tax rate for local homeowners over the age of 75.  A five percent reduction in rates for residents over age 85 would also help.  More importantly, however, Norristown must consider revising its commercial property and income tax codes.  Local renters and recent homebuyers should receive incentives to build new companies in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Eliminating property taxes and corporate income taxes for Norristown (and surrounding area) businesses created over the next decade would completely change the local economy.  Providing private micro-loans to Norristown Area School District graduates would energize this initiative.  Stagnant enterprises that have not increased local employment over the last decade would face marginal rate increases to cover the cost of this program.  Existing enterprises in the bottom 40 percent of corporate earners would be eligible for property tax rebates to help them expand.  The top 40 percent of corporate earners would freeze their rates if they showed growing income over the last decade.  If their incomes had not grown, they would experience an annual 1 percent corporate tax increase by 2025.  The middle 20 percent of corporate earners would face an automatic 2 percent annual tax rate increase through 2025.  With this framework, dynamic, global enterprises would become the foundation of the local economy, while moribund or declining firms would be encouraged to innovate and reorganize.

Other major ways to revise the tax code include penalizing residential landlords who hold more than three properties that hold assessments below the county’s median home value.  Norristown could also aggressively incentivize commercial redevelopment for local young professionals.  Even a $200 tax penalty for adult earners (ages 35-65) who make under $50,000 a year could work to define the community as a place for leaders and entrepreneurs.

Norristown needs a clear plan to build a dynamic, regional economy that will lead Montgomery County over the next century.

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (ICMG_International Center for Metropolitan Growth) and is the author of the award-winning historical monograph, Suburban Erasure.  He is also the primary instructor for the “Engines of Wealth” initiative at Monmouth University.  His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor / @icmgrowth), Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).  For bookings (workshops and speaking engagements), contact NJ History (njhistory350@gmail.com)

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Author: waltergreason1

Public Figure.

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