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Judge Strikes Down Scranton Commuter Tax Plan

SCRANTON — People who work in Scranton but live outside of the city will not be taxed after all. Tuesday afternoon, a judge struck down Scranton’s c...

SCRANTON -- People who work in Scranton but live outside of the city will not be taxed after all.

Tuesday afternoon, a judge struck down Scranton's commuter tax after a few dozen people took the city to court last week.

Scranton was set to start collecting that .75 percent wage tax from commuters on Wednesday.

The money raised was to be used only to fund city pensions.

The mayor and his cabinet thought a state law allowed them to tax commuters for that purpose, but the judge said that the tax needed to be levied on city residents, too.

The more than 50 commuters who filed a lawsuit against Scranton, along with 22,000 other commuters like them will not be .75 percent poorer on their next pay day.

The judge who heard their case, and the city's over the course of two days sided with commuters because he said the state law that allowed Scranton to pass this commuter tax in the first place is flawed.

In an 11-page decision handed down close to 12 hours before the tax was to start, the judge from Philadelphia said the same tax should have been levied on city residents, too.

Scranton's mayor and council used a specific state law called Act 205 to approve the tax this summer.

The money was to be used to fix the pension fund deficit.

Scranton's solicitor says they may appeal the judge's decision.

They have to go to back to the drawing board to make up for the lost revenue.

The solicitor says the city does not plan to add to residents' wage tax, which is already the third-highest in the state.

"It wasn't that we thought we wanted the commuters to pay. It's that we thought city residents couldn't pay any more than we're proposing at this point," said Scranton solicitor Jason Shrive.

"They were trying to solve a problem. They just were trying to solve it in a way that we didn't believe was appropriate to provide fairness. It just wasn't fair to people they were asking to pay the tax," said commuters' attorney Bill Jones.

Scranton city officials had to make a last-minute call to Berkheimer Tuesday afternoon after receiving the judge's decision to make sure the tax wasn't taken out of commuters' wages on Wednesday.

We reached out to Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright to get his reaction to the decision. We haven't heard back.