A coalition of community groups here has proposed a one-year tax to draw off some of the oil companies' profits for the benefit of the poor.
But the proposal has received a cool reception from Mayor William Green's administration -- despite a projected $118 million city deficit over the next 14 months -- and a predictably hostile reaction from Philadelphia's two refineries, Atlantic-Richfield Co.
The Campaign for a Refinery Tax says its plan to levy a 50-cent-a-barrel tax on oil refined in the city would raise $33 million in a year.
The city solicitor's office told the city council, which is considering the proposal, that the tax is legal "based upon those legal issues brought to our attention to date."
"I've got a lot of law on the books that says the Pennsylvania constitution precludes it," said John R. Galloway, Gulf's director of public affairs in Philadelphia.
The proposed tax "is so patently discriminatory it sends out signals loud and clear," said Peter A. Zambelli, ARCO's public affairs manager for the region. The tax would apply only to Gulf and ARCO, not to other refineries outside the city.
The nine community organizations pushing the tax want to use its proceeds to help offset heating bills for the poor.
"Oil companies are making money hand over foot," said Steven B. Hershey, a lawyer for the coalition. "That's one reason poor people are having trouble paying" their heating bills.
Officials in Green's office believe the proposed tax would damage the city's business image and discourage businesses from locating in Philadelphia. c
The proposed tax also could result in increased costs for consumers, if the refineries passed it on by raising their prices.