Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Creative Taxation, strike that, Revenue Enhancement.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 31, 2011

No. 602

Pennsylvania’s new Governor probably didn’t have to pledge no tax increases in order to be elected.  But he did.

In due course, he announced his first budget.  After a couple weeks of public rage, his poll numbers were so low that he ranked just below stink bugs.  Then, last week, after it appeared that the budget cuts still fell short, he launched a trial balloon for a Marcellus Shale gas extraction fee.   So, all of the talk show hosts had a field day pointing out the inconsistency — forgetting that they had just finished beating him up over the budget cuts.

Of course, budgets must be balanced and in state government, the solution must be politically acceptable. Take hope! Others have faced the dilemma and solved it.  Consider Massachusetts, which has enacted a long list of creative permits which carry with them, of course, creative fees.  For example, there is, no kidding, a Christmas Tree license. This grinchy legislation requires that the tree be removed by December 26 and must be attended at all times.  Word has it that the Massachusetts legislature is rushing to pass an Easter Basket License this month. Easter baskets are made of highly inflammable material, you know. [Christmas Tree licensing wouldn’t work here, though.  Pittsburghers hang Christmas lights on everything that doesn’t move, not just trees.]

But there are only so many holidays and most of them don’t offer much opportunity for revenue enhancement.  So another fertile field might be expanding the category of professional licenses.  Again, Massachusetts has lead the way by enacting a Palm Reader’s License. This revenue enhancer has the advantage that the people it seeks to tax, I mean regulate, will actually be eager to pay.  After all, no one took palm readers too seriously until now. Word has it that the proposed Witchcraft License never made it out of committee, though.  Still too sensitive in Massachusetts.

It seems to me that a plethora of licensing opportunities are available to balance the budget of the state, municipalities and school districts.  How have we gotten along without a lawn mower license?  And, of course, a lawn mower operator’s license? You can cut off your toe with an unsafe machine — or if you don’t know how to run it. There are a host of other machines and appliances that could receive the same treatment.

Here’s some more revenue enhancement ideas:


Save a poor helpless State employee from the chopping block.  He’ll send you birthday cards.  He’ll send you pictures of himself, together with his friends, relaxing in their workplace.


On the days when the Governor is not in his office, high bidders can move in and take over.  Proclamations, suitable for framing, will be printed to order.


The party facilities are magnificent.  Harrisburg bigwigs can also be hired as party guests for an additional fee.


Anything can be named, from buildings, to parking lots, to furniture, to staplers, for a fee.  Naming rights available to fit any budget.


Opportunities to post advertising are unlimited.  Walls, floors, vehicles, uniforms.  You tell us where you would like to see your ad.


Anything the state thinks we don’t need can be auctioned on a 24/7 internet website.


Available at affordable prices. Keep one in the glove compartment at all times.  You never know when it will come in handy.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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