Council Meets to Discuss Harrisburg Legislation

Members of City Council just wrapped up a meeting where their legal counsel provided a briefing on the amendments added by the state Senate to House Bill 1828, the legislation that provides budget relief to the city.

HB 1828 grants the city permission to temporarily raise the sales tax and to defer some pension payments. The new version of the bill includes amendments that would bar elected officials from the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and would require the city to freeze the pension plan and create a lower-cost plan for all new city employees, which would have to be negotiated with municipal unions.

Union officials have slammed the plan, saying it would damage the collective bargaining process.

Six Council members attended the session, along with several staffers for other members. Afterwards, many said that speedy passage of HB1828 was best for the city.

"We are frankly speaking, bleeding to the tune of $10 million a month," said Councilman Darrell Clarke. "We're interested to have this come to a conclusion very soon."

Councilman Bill Greenlee said: "Get it done and get it done in the time frame where we don't have to go to Plan C."

If the state does not soon approve the city's budget requests - worth $700 million over five years - the mayor will have to implement a dire "Plan C" budget that would prompt layoffs of 3,000 city workers and close libraries and recreation centers.

On the pension piece of this, Clarke said he had not spoken with union leaders, noting: "that is between the administration and the unions." He added that it wasn't clear exactly how the pension amendment would play out.

The handout provided to Council at the meeting noted: "It is not clear what happens if the City, despite its best efforts, fails in arbitration and/or collective bargaining to obtain agreement on the new plan."