Nutter: City cannot afford cuts, new taxes unavoidable

Mayor Nutter formally presented a $3.87 billion budget to City Council this morning, calling on its members to approve a new tax on sugary drinks and a $300 annual trash fee in order to avoid cuts that would “devastate” city services.

“The deep budget cuts required to fill the deficit would force massive layoffs and a very noticeable reduction in city services. It’s a path we should avoid,” Nutter said.

Mayor Nutter presents his 2010 budget to members of Philadelphia City Council at City Hall this morning. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

If approved by City Council, the two new revenue sources would raise $146.6 million next year and $185 million in future years. Together, the fee and tax are enough to eliminate the city’s projected $150 million deficit.

Though the mayor told Council that Philadelphia continues to face serious economic challenges, his overall tone was upbeat, and he used the occasion to repeatedly tout his administration’s accomplishments.

“I believe that Philadelphia is uniquely positioned for greatness in this new century. We’re at the right place, at the right time and we have what it takes to create huge economic growth and prosperity for our city, a city that is safe, smart and sustainable,” Nutter told Council.

Calling his administration “battle tested,” Nutter said his vision for Philadelphia is “based on its fighting spirit.” And he urged residents to embrace his sense of optimism.

“For years now, Philadelphians have been engaged in a great internal debate between our betters angels who have hope, who see possibility and who want change, and those whose cynicism and lack of an imagination freeze them in a past of low expectations,” Nutter said.

The mayor used his address to reach out, by name, to every member of City Council, and he praised specific accomplishments of each council person.

Nutter also emphasized the spending cuts and efficiencies his administration has enacted since the nationwide economic crisis began.

“In extraordinary times, we’ve met the challenge of recession. We’ve innovated, we’ve reformed and we’ve preserved the basic services that Philadelphians want and deserve,” Nutter said.

Towards the end of his 50 minute address, Nutter called the mayor's office a "humbling place," and he acknowledged he has "made some mistakes."

"I ask your forgiveness for my mistakes, but I also ask for your continued support as we all strive together to serve the citizens of our city," Nutter said.

The outlines of Nutter’s budget have been clear for several days, but the mayor’s address did contain a few nuggets of news.

* All of the city’s functioning pools – 69 of 72 – are funded in Nutter’s proposed budget.
* Wage and business tax cuts, which had been tabled when the economic crisis struck, are now included in the mayor’s five-year plan, but not until 2014.
* The city will work with a pro bono consultant to seek further efficiencies.
* Capital investment in technology would be sharply increased. Nutter proposes sinking $120 million into technology over the next six years.
* Nutter plans to overhaul the largely inactive Mayor's Commission on Literacy.