Council wants say over how city dollars are spent

Three weeks after Mayor Nutter vetoed a bill that would have tacked a $4 surcharge onto parking tickets to generate additional dollars for the maintenance of parks and recreation facilities and for a division of the Philadelphia Parking Authority –the sponsor City Councilman Mark Squilla proposed legislation today that would give council a say over how 10 percent of the operating budget is spent.

“We’re not going to take over the whole budget process,” Squilla said. “It’s a strong mayoral form of government and [the Mayor] has the ability to dictate most of where the money goes, but this just gives us a small percentage of the money that we could be moving.”

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration would provide comment at a hearing on the bill.

Squilla said the idea to propose a charter change came after discussion with the administration about his surcharge bill. Nutter squashed that bill because he said it violated the Home Rule Charter and state law, which requires that any parking revenues that exceed the base amount be directed to the school district.

“So I said how can we get around that? And they said the only way to get around that is to change the charter so that’s sort of what we’re trying to do here.”

Council would have authority over how hundreds of millions of dollars is spent under Squilla’s proposal.

"It seems as if [Squilla] is trying to take a function that belongs to the executive and use it for the legislative branch," said Zack Stalberg, president of political-watchdog group Committee of Seventy. "Council has the power of the purse and the ability to change the budget. I expect the Mayor will oppose it."

Currently the Mayor creates the initial financial plan which outlines how the administration would like to spend money and Council can make changes but ultimately the budget is approved or vetoed by the Mayor.