Everyone knows that Scranton is broke. The city made national headlines a few years go when former mayor Chris Doherty paid city workers, including police officers, minimum wage because of the city’s financial woes. That action earned Scranton headlines in the New York Times, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, NPR, and other mainstream media outlets. Now, there’s been chatter about the city’s recently created “amusement tax.” According to an article in Electric/Diamond City, a notice was sent to business owners about this tax in January, and the notice states that the tax allows the city “to impose a 5-percent tax upon privilege of attending or engaging in non-exempt amusements, including every form of entertainment, diversion, sport, recreation and pastime, requiring all persons, partnerships, associations and corporations conducting places of amusements; imposing duties and conferring powers upon the Treasurer of the City of Scranton; prescribing the method and the manner of collecting the tax imposed by the ordinance; and imposing penalties for the violation thereof.”
Editor Tom Graham’s piece raises important questions, too. “Exactly 5 percent of what?” he asks. 5 percent of a ticketed event? 5 percent of cover charges collected at the door? How exactly will the money be collected? There is a lot of troubling aspects of this tax. If it is imposed, it will probably hurt some of the smaller venues downtown by not only whacking them with the tax, but also by driving bands, writers, actors, actresses, and other entertainers away from Scranton venues because the tax would impact how much they get paid to perform. Scranton has a lot of issues, but thanks to First Friday and the strong, growing art and entertainment community, it does have culture. It would be a shame if this tax killed that.
The best thing to do is to attend city council meetings and call the mayor’s office and urge them not to enforce this tax. The contact information for city officials can be found here.