Archive: May, 2009
Our man in Harrisburg, John Baer, reports:
Staff at the Gov. Ed's Harrisburg home-away-from-home and some Future Farmers of America students are scheduled today to plant a vegetable garden on the grounds of Governor's Mansion.
Why this wasn't done back in 2003 when the dietary-challenged Guv took office? Then again, it's hard for us to picture (then or now) His Edness ordering up the vegetarian special for dinner.
Mayor Nutter this morning said the consequences for the city would be "dire" if lawmakers in Harrisburg don't approve several key measures in the newly passed city budget.
Nutter needs state approval for a temporary five-year sales tax increase of 1 cent. He also needs the state to sign off on several changes on how the city pays into the pension fund, including a provision to stretch out payments into the fund over 30 years instead of 20.
If the city can't get those approvals, devastating cuts are in store, Nutter said. Those could include police lay-offs, the elimination of some fire equipment and reduction in trash pick-up. This scenario is being called a "Plan C," because it could be worse than the "Plan B" laid out by the administration under their earlier budget proposal.
City Council this morning approved Mayor Nutter's two appointees to SEPTA's board after a contentious committee meeting last week. Beverly Coleman, executive director of NeighborhoodsNow, was unanimously approved. Not so for Rina Cutler, Nutter's deputy mayor for transportation and utilities. Councilman Bill Green, who helped lead the charge in aggressively questioning Cutler last week, paused for a long moment before approving her appointment. Council members W. Wilson Goode Jr. and Joan Krajewski voted against Cutler.
City Council President Anna Verna offered this morning an economic reason for suburban state legislators to support Philadelphia's request to increase the local sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar -- It will drive more big-ticket sales to suburban counties. Council passed the $3.8 billion city budget today. The sales tax hike included in the spending plan must be approved by the state General Assembly.
"If you live in Philadelphia and have to buy a large item and it is taxable, you’re going to go to another county where you may not have to pay that tax," Verna said, her voice trailing off at the end of the sentence into a mock whisper.
Verna said sending city shoppers to the suburbs would not hurt local merchants because many items are exempt from the sales tax. She added that city shoppers already go to the suburbs or Delaware to buy expensive items.
Chris Brennan & Catherine Lucey
City Council just passed the $3.8 billion* fiscal year 2010 city budget, designed to close a $1.4 billion gap in the five-year financial plan. Mayor Nutter is expected to quickly sign into law the spending plan, which goes into effect on July 1. But one major step is still needed. The state General Assembly must approve provisions in the city budget to increase the sales tax by 1 cent for five years and to stretch contributions to the city's pension fund to 30 years instead of 20 years.
If Harrisburg doesn't come through, the city will instead implement an alternate budget with wide-spread cuts, including police lay-offs, the elimination of some fire equipment and reduction in trash pick-up.
Nutter and Council struck the budget deal last week when he abandoned his call for a controversial two-year increase in property taxes that did not require approval from Harrisburg.
City Council is expected this morning to pass the fiscal year 2010 budget, a deal cut with Mayor Nutter last week that includes a five-year increase by 1 cent in the local sales tax and a push down the road for some funding obligations to the pension fund. That deal rankles some city residents and employees. About thirty community activists and city union members gathered outside of Council this morning to protest the budget, which requires approval from the state General Assembly on the sales tax and pension issue.
"We don't want a budget that's balanced on the backs of workers in this city," said Rev. Jesse Brown of the Essential Services Coalition. "We are not seeing leadership in City Hall. The mayor is not leading. City Council is not leading. What they have done is business as usual."
Among the protesters were leaders of District Council 47, which represents white-collar city employees and want more probation officers hired, and the Neighborhood Networks. The protesters called on the city to raise local wage and businss taxes rather than making cuts in services and jobs.
Leonard Luchko, a computer technician who helped state Sen. Vince Fumo wipe office computers of evidence, is heading to federal prison for 30 months. Luchko, who cut a deal to testify against Fumo but then lost it when he kept e-mailing his old boss, now calls the disgraced senator a "common thief."
The School Reform Commission deals Superintendent Arlene Ackerman her first setback on the job, narrowly ruling against her call to hire a consultant to help remake the district.