Nutter defends Harrisburg budget strategy

With the "doomsday" budget deadline approaching and the city's sales tax and pension legislation still bottled up in Harrisburg, some observers have been quietly suggesting that Nutter and City Council ought never to have put the fate of Philadelphia's budget in the hands of state lawmakers.

"Heard in the Hall" asked Nutter if, in retrospect, he would have done anything differently.

"This is the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. We've been very responsible here," he said.

Theoretically, the city could have solved its budget mess on its own, through radical local tax hikes and a massive round of further spending cuts. Practically, though, Nutter's options were limited.

Council opposed a property-tax hike from the start. Then The Inquirer series on the Board of Revision of Taxes appeared, making any property-tax hike impossible, Nutter said.

A wage-tax increase was off the table, due to state gaming revenue regulations. The budget gap was too big for business taxes alone to bridge, and, anyway, Nutter considers higher business taxes terrible public policy.

And closing the gap with still more spending cuts was not feasible, Nutter said, not after he'd already trimmed $1.7 billion (including the elimination of scheduled tax cuts) from the city's five-year budget.

"We're not asking for money from Harrisburg. We are just asking for authorization to solve our own problems. All of us are dependent at times on some other government entity. The states have looked to Washington for help in this recession," Nutter said. "We looked at a lot of different options. This was the best one available."

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