Nutter goes to Harrisburg to push for Senate vote

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Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter answers questions at a news conference outside City Hall just before his trip to Harrisburg, where he will lobby legislators to pass House Bill 1828, which gives Philadelphia the tools to deal with its budget crisis.

Mayor Nutter is on his way to Harrisburg - again - this morning to push for passage of House Bill 1828.

The legislation is awaiting action by the Senate, whose leaders have not yet indicated whether they will support the measure, or when a vote would occur. Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet and discuss the bill - which would close a $700 million gap in Philadelphia's five-year budget - at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the city inches closer to its promise to send out 3,000 notices tomorrow to employees who would lose their jobs as of Oct. 2. That cost-cutting action would be part of the Plan C "doomsday" budget Nutter says he will have to implement if the legislature fails to act.

Nutter has also prepared a speech that aired at 10 a.m. this morning on Channel 64, the city's cable station, about his reluctant decision to deliver the layoff notices barring approval by the Senate of the pending House bill. The address reflects his message yesterday to city workers. Here is a transcript:

 

Address from Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Thursday 17 September, 2009
________________________________________

My fellow Philadelphians,

I want to talk today to the thousands of dedicated public employees in our city, but also to the hundreds of thousands of families, friends, neighbors and customers of our public employees, who rely upon them and the services they provide.

This has been a very tough year.

As all of you know, since last September we have faced some very difficult times and even more difficult choices. As we have dealt with the global economic meltdown we have had to cut $1.7 billion from our Five Year Plan.

We have done our best to minimize the impact of these cuts on citizens, and on the public servants who work for the City of Philadelphia.

Despite these efforts, we were not able to fully close our budget deficit on our own - there comes a point when there is simply nothing left to cut without having a devastating impact on the city.

We turned to Harrisburg to give us the tools that we need to fix the final piece of our financial puzzle - the authority to temporarily increase the sales tax and to make changes to our pension payments.

This legislation - House Bill 1828 - will generate $700 million and will allow us to avoid the devastating cuts that have come to be known as 'Plan C'.

Without approval of this bill we will need to make an additional $700 million of further cuts, on top of everything else we've already done.
This time the cuts would be devastating.

And so, if Harrisburg does not approve 1828, we will have to send out 3,000 lay-off notices to employees across city government.

Each notice is a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a neighbor.

I understand this and I will fight until the very last second to avoid taking this action.

But, I must tell you, that because of the ever changing situation in Harrisburg, there is a real possibility that layoff notices will go out tomorrow.

I do not want to take this action. It is one of the most painful things that any Mayor could possibly do, and I will fight to make sure that these layoffs do not come to pass.

But without approval of this legislation we will quite simply have no choice.

During my 25 years in and around city government I have seen first-hand the immeasurable impact that dedicated public servants have on the lives of our fellow citizens, especially those who need our help the most.

As City Councilman and as your Mayor I have witnessed the sacrifice that public servants make on a daily basis in order to serve this city.

I am proud to be Mayor of this city, working every day with these incredibly dedicated individuals.

I care deeply about each and every one of our city employees - some I have met, many I have not.

Most came into public service to help people and to make lives better…I know I did.

The very value that each and every one brings to this city will be measured by the devastating impact on public services if we have to proceed with these layoffs.

Let me talk to just our city workers for a moment.

For those who do receive a layoff notice this week I pledge to you that I will continue to work every hour of the day and night on your behalf, and continue to fight for you and our city to make sure that these layoffs do not take effect.

During this very difficult time your city needs you to continue to come to work, to provide the vital services that so many of our citizens rely upon, and to support your fellow public employees.

I will not even pretend to understand the full extent of the worry and concern that many of you feel at this time.

But I know you feel terrible about this and I do too.

I know that the uncertainty of this situation and the prospect that you or one of your friends will receive a layoff notice is deeply troubling.

But what I can tell you is that I am still hopeful and that I will never stop fighting for you or this great city that we all love and serve.

Thank you for caring about the City of Philadelphia.
 

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