Tuesday, August 4, 2015

City Begs State Lawmakers For Budget Support -- But Not Everyone Will Listen

We've got major budget action today in the city. Mayor Nutter and City Council are currently meeting with Philadelphia's Harrisburg delegation at the Bellevue Hotel, to lay out why they need state approval for several key measures in the city budget.

City Begs State Lawmakers For Budget Support -- But Not Everyone Will Listen

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We've got major budget action today in the city. Mayor Nutter and City Council are currently meeting with Philadelphia's Harrisburg delegation at the Bellevue Hotel, to lay out why they need state approval for several key measures in the city budget.

Half an hour in, the session has already grown heated. State Rep. Mike O'Brien just left the closed door meeting, saying he wasn’t going to be “lectured” on the city’s finances. O’Brien said he has asked the city’s lobbyists and the administration why they won’t consider diverting the $87 million the city’s expected to receive in state gaming taxes towards the budget problems. So far, O'Brien said, he's gotten no answers.

O'Brien noted that the mayor has spoken of meeting with 110 members of the general assembly, but “I’m not one of them. And I’m not going to sit there and be lectured on the need for the money until my question is answered.”

The city's share of state gaming revenue is currently earmarked for wage tax relief. Under state gaming law, the city could raise wage taxes if city tax collections have dropped by more than 2 percent. In May, city Finance Director Rob Dubow said that revenues had dropped by 1.94 percent, just shy of the necessary amount.

Also, the city cannot impose a new tax increase once the fiscal year has started. The current fiscal year began July 1, so a wage tax increase is off the table for now, anyway.

The budget agreed on by Nutter and City Council counts on getting Harrisburg approval for several measures – a temporary increase in the city sales tax and some changes on how the city will pay into the pension fund. Without state authorization for those items, the city will have a $700 million gap to fill over the next five years, which will likely mean devastating cuts to city jobs and services.
 

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William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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