Archive: September, 2009
A clearly frustrated Mayor Nutter is still here in the state Capitol in Harrisburg, waiting for the state House Rules Committee to vote tonight on legislation needed for Philadelphia to balance its five-year financial plan. Nutter said notices posted today in city buildings, like library branches, warning that they would be shutting down soon without the approval of that legislation, upset many city residents.
"I think the people of Philadelphia are increasingly getting pissed off about this entire situation," said Nutter, who again noted that he has been visiting the Capital since April 27 to push for approval on two "relatively simple" measures in the legislation. One would allow the city to raise the sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar for five years while the other would allow pension plan payments to be deferred. Both are worth a combined $700 to the city.
"We've done every possible thing that we could do to prevent this, yet we are caught up in a political maelstrom where action gets taken but there is seemingly never a resolution," Nutter said.
House Bill 1828, the legislation Philadelphia needs to balance its five-year financial plan and avert the layoffs of 3,000 city employees on Oct. 2, is about to come up for a vote in the state House Rules Committee. But it won't get a shot at approval by the full House until tomorrow. The legislation, passed by the House on Aug. 5 and then passed with amendments by the state Senate on Aug. 26, has been amended once again. It's being printed right now and then must be posted for one hour before the Rules Committee votes on it.
Johnna Pro, a spokeswoman for state Rep. Dwight Evans, just told us the language of the bill has been floated to the Senate for its consideration. The House is stripping from the bill several Senate provisions that alarmed municipal union leaders. Gone are mandatory remedies for some financially troubled municipal pension plans. A provision that would have required new Philadelphia workers to go into a new, lesser-expensive pension plan, is gone too.
The House won't be voting as a whole on the legislation until sometime tomorrow. House rules require that amended legislation be posted for 24 hours before that vote, unless there is a vote to suspend that rule. Pro seemed to think that rule will be suspended. House Majority Leader Sam Smith told us he's not so sure, which means it may be a late Friday here in the Capitol.
With all the revisions and negotiations, it looks like the work on state House Bill 1828 – which provides budget relief for the city – could go late into the night. Unless….
The Pittsburgh Steelers kick off the NFL season tonight in a matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Will lawmakers from the western part of the state want to cut discussions short so they can run home and twirl their Terrible Towels?
Gov. Rendell just weighed in on the city's budget woes, saying he hopes the state House and Senate can compromise on the pension reforms added to House Bill 1828, legislation originally designed to provide budget relief for Philadelphia. Rendell said he was aware that the House was working on changes to the legislation and said he hopes the Senate is kept in the loop.
"Whatever the House adopts, if the Senate doesn't agree to it in advance, that's going to be a disaster for the city of Philadelphia," Rendell said.
Rendell said talk of massive layoffs and signs going up in public buildings in Philadelphia about potential closures show that the city's fallback budget is in real danger of being implemented.
"I don't think the mayor is kidding," Rendell said. "In fact, I know he's not kidding. He has no alternative."
Looks like the city is trying to get the budget cut message out by all available means.
If you head to the Free Library of Philadelphia website, a pop-up appears, which says: "Urgent Action Needed, All Libraries to Close Oct. 2." The notice includes a link to a page with directions on how people can contact their elected officials to push for budget relief for Philadelphia.
Closure notices are going up at physical libraries and recreation centers throughout the day. The facilities would be closed Oct. 2 if budget relief from the state doesn't come through.
Is a compromise coming together on House Bill 1828 in time to save Philadelphia’s skin?
It’s too soon to say for sure, but Chris Brennan is hearing that the state House of Representatives has reached a tentative agreement on a revised version of HB1828, which provides budget relief to Philly and statewide pension reform. The state House has been trying to revise pension amendments added to the bill by the state Senate.
Of course, the state Senate would have to also okay the deal. Apparently, the details have been provided to members of the state Senate, but so far there has been no word on whether the body would sign off on the compromise.
Tensions are high in the state Capitol today as Mayor Nutter anxiously awaits a vote in the state House of Representatives on budget relief legislation for the city.
Chris Brennan caught up with Nutter in the Capitol cafeteria where he was eating French fries with ketchup. He declined to answer any questions about how the day is shaping up so far, which may not be a good sign. Nutter needs passage of House Bill 1828 – which would allow the city to temporarily hike the sales tax and defer pension payments – to stave off massive cuts.
The city’s lobbyist, Holly Kinser, is on hand, as is city Finance Director Rob Dubow.
Mayor Nutter is spending the day in Harrisburg today, hoping that the state House of Representatives will vote on legislation that would provide budget relief for the city.
To avoid massive cuts and layoffs, Philly needs state lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow the city to raise the sales tax temporarily and to defer some pension payments, moves that are worth $700 million over five years.
But the legislation -- House Bill 1828 -- has stalled amid union protests over pension-reform amendments added to the bill by the state Senate. The state House delayed a vote last week, promising to revise the legislation. Members of the House have been trying to find a way to modify the pension amendments and still get Philly the needed relief. They are expected to vote this afternoon, but those plans could change.