Archive: August, 2009
Our man in Harrisburg, John Baer, just sent us this report on Mayor Nutter's press conference in Harrisburg after House Bill 1828 passed.
Nutter held a news conference in the capitol rotunda today after the House passed the city's sales tax/pension bill. He was joined by a dozen Democratic representatives, most from Philly.
"We just had major movement on behalf of the City of Philadelphia," Nutter said, thanking the House and noting, "This was a bipartisan effort...the future and fate of Philadelphia was in their hands."
But that future and fate remain in question.
The measure now goes to the Senate which reconvenes Monday and has shown reluctance to act quickly on the bill. Under Senate rules, a bill must be in the chamber three days before it can be voted.
"There is no reason at all for the Senate not to take up this measure on Monday and pass it on Wednesday," Nutter said, noting "it is not tied at all" to the stalled state budget.
Here's the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR NUTTER ON PASSAGE OF HOUSE BILL 1828
Philadelphia, August 5 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter has issued this statement following the passage of House Bill 1828 by 112 votes to 85:
Today’s passage of House Bill 1828 (HB 1828) is a big step forward for Philadelphia, and I would like to pay tribute to the hard work, dedication, and leadership of so many state representatives, especially members of the Philadelphia delegation led by State Representative Jewell Williams, State Representative Dwight Evans, Speaker Keith McCall, Majority Leader Todd Eachus, and State Representative Cherelle Parker.
I’m further encouraged that this legislation passed with clear bi-partisan support and with support from across South Eastern Pennsylvania. This is not a party issue. This economic crisis does not distinguish between Democrats and Republicans.
That gust of wind you just felt might be Philadelphia officials breathing a sigh of relief. The state House of Representatives has given final approval to legislation that would alllow the city to raise the sales tax and change payments into the pension fund.
Of course, now the battle moves to the state Senate. And Dominic Pileggi, the leader of the state Senate Republicans from Delaware County, has said that he doesn't want to deal with the Philly requests until after the full budget is resolved.
So what does that mean for Mayor Nutter? Will he start playing hardball in Harrisburg? Stay tuned...
With just one exception, every City Council member will pass on some or all of a cost of living raise they were awarded July 1, according to a memo Council President Verna sent to City Finance Director Rob Dubow earlier this week.
All Council members were mandated to take 5.13 percent raise as of July 1. Twelve members received a $5,758 raise on their annual $112,223 salaries. Council's five leadership posts pay more, so their raises were slightly higher. Given the city's dire financial problems, most members felt this was a tough time to take a raise.
The exact amount returned – and where it will go – varies depending on the member.
Seven members are giving up their entire raise – Frank DiCicco, Anna Verna, Curtis Jones Jr., Darrell Clarke, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Jim Kenney and Bill Green. Nine are giving up a smaller portion of the raise, based on the taxes they expect to pay on the money.
Most members are returning the money to the city’s general fund. But three have designated the funds to go elsewhere. Quiñones-Sánchez wants her raise to go to the 7th Councilmanic District. Councilwoman Marion Tasco will donate $3,593 to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. And Green is donating his raise to the Friends of the Free Library.
Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. is not returning his raise to the city general fund or another cause. He said that he plans to make several early property tax payments during the current fiscal year, to provide the city and school district with additional funds.
Gov. Rendell just signed what he is calling a "bridge budget" that he says will help pay state workers while he negotiates a full state budget.
Rendell signed off on Senate Bill 850, a Republican-sponsored budget that holds the line on spending and includes no new taxes. Rendell last week asked for that action, saying he planned to line-item veto 90 percent of the legislation, leaving intact only the parts that keep state offices open and paychecks coming to state employees.
At the signing, Rendell called on the state Senate to approve House Bill 1828, which gives the city the power to increase the sales tax and change payments into the pension plan. The legislation was approved yesterday in the House and could get final passage today, at which point it will be sent to the Senate.
"I think it’s an appropriate response to Philadelphia’s crisis," Rendell said
It is unclear what will happen in the Senate. Dominic Pileggi, the leader of the state Senate Republicans from Delaware County, has said that he doesn't want to deal with the Philly requests until after the full budget is resolved. Rendell said he disagreed with the logic.
"I think Sen. Pileggi is wrong by saying it has to be part of the overall budget legislation. I just think he’s just dead wrong," Rendell said. "I urge the house to pass it today and the Senate to move swiftly and pass it tomorrow or whenever they get back."
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak gets in the Senate race, vows to work for every last vote.
John Baer on how Sestak could win out over Sen. Arlen Specter.
The state House of Representatives moves forward on the city's legislative request, but will the state Senate?
Prosecutors want a tough term for a former aide to Councilman Jack Kelly who was convicted on corruption charges.
With City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, due to be sentenced Monday on federal corruption charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office went to court yesterday to argue that he deserves more the double the time in prison than a probation officer has recommended. To make the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick brings up in a court filing the controversial recent sentencing of former state Sen. Vince Fumo to 55 months in prison for his own corruption conviction. You can read the filing here.
"The Fumo sentence was, as scores of citizens stated in unsolicited letters and phone calls to our office and to the district judge’s chambers, a travesty," Bresnick wrote in a filing for U.S. District Justice Eduardo Robreno. "Besides imposing insufficient punishment for the offenses at issue, its worst legacy will arise if other judges follow that court’s mistaken lead, and use the Fumo sentence as a baseline for public corruption offenses. That should not happen. This Court should not follow a path of condoning and lightly punishing breaches of the public trust by public officials."
Bresnick argues that Wright, convicted in February along with Andy Teitelman and Ravinder Chawla, should serve six and a half years in prison, not the 27-33 months recommended by the probation officer. Teitelman was Kelly's campaign manager. Chawla was one of his most generous campaign contributors. They both will be sentenced next month. Wright received a rent-free apartment near Rittenhouse Square and free legal services from Chawla and Teitelman in return for help on real estate, zoning and tax issues.
A Twitter account that appeared to belong to Mayor Nutter has been disabled. When you try to access www.twitter.com/Mayor_Nutter, a page pops up that says the account has been "suspended due to strange activity."
As previously reported by the Inquirer, the account didn't actually belong to the mayor. But it was a passable hoax, because the tweets were always on message, encouraging readers to visit Fairmount Park or reminding them of city programs.
Tricia Enright, a deputy chief of staff who works in the mayor's press office, said the city had requested that the page be taken down. She said there are no immediate plans for the mayor to launch his own twitter page.
The state House, after a long debate, just voted 195-3 to pass Senate Bill 850, a Republican-sponsored budget that holds the line on spending and includes no new taxes. Gov. Rendell last week asked for that action, saying he plans to line-item veto 90 percent of the legislation, leaving intact only the parts that keep state offices open and paychecks coming to state employees. Rendell calls this a "bridge" budget to keep the state working while a full state budget is negotiated. Senate Republicans call it a "stop-gap" budget that will just delay the process.
Whatever you call it, it looks like bad news for Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter is out in Harrisburg right now lobbying for a pair of city budget issues -- a 1 cent increase in the sales tax, changes to the pension plan. The city originally hoped legislation for those measures would be included in a final state budget package. That package still looks far away. And the Senate Republicans show no interest in moving the city's issues before the state budget.
Right after that, the House gave a first reading to House Bill 1828, which gives the city the power to increase the sales tax and change the pension plan. The legislation was passed without comment, which means it can be called up for final consideration as soon as tomorrow.* Still, a version in the Senate -- SB1058 -- appears headed nowhere fast.
* Correction: An earlier post said this legislation needed to be considered two more times for approval. It only needs a third and final consideration for approval.
One of the strange ironies we’ve noted in the budget process is that Philadelphia is currently poised to make massive citywide cuts at the same time the federal government is pledging to send the city millions of dollars as part of the $787 billion stimulus package.
But here’s the rub. Nearly all the money coming from the feds is dedicated for very specific purposes and cannot go to general operating expenses.
So if the city’s budget requests in Harrisburg don’t go as planned, and Mayor Nutter implements his “Plan C” doomsday budget, then the city will start laying people off, while spending millions on street repaving and airport improvements.
Here are just a few examples of the stimulus funding allocated to the city:
- $26 million for improvements at the airport. (But who wants to travel to a city with minimal public safety and sanitation services?)
- $15.7 million for street repaving. (Of course, there will be almost no staffers left in the Streets Department to keep these newly paved streets clean if the city goes to Plan C.)
- $21.4 million for homeless prevention and other services. (Which no doubt will come in handy after if to 3,000 city workers lose their jobs.)
- $13.9 million for job training. (A mere drop in the bucket of how much the city will need if thousands lose their jobs.)
To put this all in context, according to the city’s five-year financial plan, the Free Library has a budget of $32 million this fiscal year, the recreation department has a budget of $33 million and Fairmount Park has a $12.6 million budget.
But at least one job is available in Philadelphia. The city is hiring a “recovery officer” to manage the stimulus dollars coming in.
We spoke to Mayor Nutter last week about this. He said he asked White House officials in town two weeks ago if they would consider providing cities with waivers to use some stimulus funds for budget problems. We’ve called the White House press office to see if they have any comment on that idea.