Mar 29, 2022 - Politics

Philly Councilmember Kendra Brooks pushes for wealth tax again

Illustration of a bar chart made of top hats of declining sizes.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia Councilmember Kendra Brooks is renewing calls to implement a city wealth tax that takes aim at stock market holding gains.

Driving the news: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Philly Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Helen Gym will join Brooks for a virtual campaign Tuesday afternoon.

State of play: Brooks' proposal, which she first introduced in 2020, would tax the value of direct holdings in stocks and bonds, with a max rate of 0.4%.

  • The top 5% of families with incomes of $364,000 or more would account for nearly three-quarters of the tax revenues. The plan could generate about $200 million annually, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center tells Axios.
  • The money from this tax ideally would go to mobile crisis response units, libraries, homeless services and recreation centers, Brooks said.

Context: The city already had a wealth tax, which brought in $17 million annually. But it was repealed in 1997.

The big picture: Pushes to tax the rich often gain momentum around election years.

  • President Joe Biden is also proposing a tax on the wealthy. His plan would require all American households worth at least $100 million to pay at least a 20% tax on income, stock portfolios and other assets.

Between the lines: Philadelphia's City Council president is in charge of assigning proposals to committees for a hearing. But Darrell Clarke hasn't done so for Brooks' plan in the two years since it was introduced.

  • Brooks tells Axios she thinks she'll have a better shot this time around because she has more support.
  • Joe Grace, a spokesperson for Clarke, said tax bills are considered during the budget process, which begins next week.

Of note: Gym and Gauthier are cosponsors to the bill. Brooks also has the support of a few labor unions, including District Council 33 and 47.

What they're saying: "The majority of Philadelphians are suffering post-pandemic, and the urgency is different compared to when we introduced it in 2020. The time is now," Brooks said.

Mike Shields, a project manager at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, called Brooks' plan a good initiative but raised concerns about "how much teeth it has in terms of its legislative power."

What to watch: Brooks will reintroduce the bill Thursday, the same day as Mayor Jim Kenney's budget address.

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