The highest-in-the-nation wage tax, currently 3.87% for residents and 3.5% for nonresidents who work in the city, has been a central pillar of Philadelphia’s fiscal policy for more than 80 years. The levy first propped up the city’s budget in 1939, when it was ravaged by the Depression. But critics say the wage tax, along with the business income and receipts tax (BIRT), lingers on as a job killer, steadily driving businesses and workers from the city. By some estimates, the wage tax has cost thousands of jobs. The pandemic has underscored Philadelphia’s fiscal vulnerabilities.