Archive: August, 2009
Mayor Nutter is headed out of town again, this time to Kentucky where he will be the keynote speaker tomorrow during a luncheon attended by other mayors.
The event is hosted by the Louisville Leadership Center, a development and civic engagement organization, along with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
From the web site about the event:
The city will sharply cut back on its new 311 program, delay a police recruiting class and cut $1.5 million from politically sensitive low income housing fund, Mayor Nutter said today, as he announced yet another round of budget cuts, this one topping $20 million.
The mayor said the cuts were necessary due to the inaction of state lawmakers, who are considering legislation that would let the city increase its sales tax and reduce pension payments over the short term.
“There are real consequences to inaction. Every week that passes without Senate approval costs the city millions of dollars, forcing ever deeper cuts to services,” Nutter said in a statement.
Mayor Nutter's Task Force on Tax Policy & Economic Competitivness has unveiled some preliminary recommendations, which will be the subject of a town hall meeting in Room 400 of City Hall from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. The recommendations don't include suggested tax rates, but are meant rather to sketch out some broad policy ideas. For folks familiar with the conclusions of the much-larger and much-more-widely-publicized Tax Reform Commission of 2003, the new recommendations will not include many surprises.
In short, the task force thinks the city's tax burden is too high and too reliant on wage and business taxes. Better, the task force thinks, to increase property taxes and reduce reliance on the other levies once the city and the BRT finally fix their property assessment system. There are some interesting observations on the need to enhance tax collection efforts, and a recommendation to launch a tax amnesty program and reduce interest rates and penalties on tax delinquents in an attempt to lower the delinquency rate. But the basis recommendations have changed little in the past six years.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, council and the mayor will do with the conclusions. Remember, Mayor Nutter - who named the task force - sought to raise property taxes this past year in an attempt to deal with the budget crisis. Council preferred a wage tax hike. Ultimately of course they settled on the sales tax proposal, which is still awaiting approval in Harrisburg.
Christopher Wright, the city Council aide convicted of conspiracy and fraud for his connection to a pair of developers and their lawyer, was sentenced to 48 months in prison today and must pay a $1,000 fine.
Wright, former chief of staff to Republican City Councilman Jack Kelly, must report to prison in 45 days.
The U.S. Attorney's Office had asked U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno for a 6 1/2 year sentence, a punishment that would exceed former state Sen. Vincent Fumo by nearly two years.
Under mounting public pressure, State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi predicted today that a pair of budget-rescuing measures sought by Mayor Nutter would be approved, but he warned that there would not be a vote for at least several weeks.
If Pileggi is right, and Harrisburg approves the penny-per-dollar city sales tax hike and pension restructuring that Philadelphia has asked for, the city would avoid the mass layoffs and most of the crippling service reductions — such as closures of most libraries and all recreation centers — that Nutter has warned will be necessary if the legislation fails.
City officials responded warily to Pileggi’s remarks, noting that each day that the State Senate does not act digs the city into a deeper fiscal hole. For each month that passes, the city misses out on $10 million in lost sales tax collections.
Monica Yant Kinney
Still clamoring for more info on the whys and hows of Philadelphia parking after reading my column? Have I got some leftovers for you:
* Valet parking zones are a great deal for restaurants, at just $250 per year, but tourism companies like Ride the Ducks pay way more: $5,000 per reserved space.
* Authorized parking for city employees and other VIPs, it turns out, is both an outdoor and indoor affair.
We can't see Mayor Nutter right now since he is in Harrisburg. But one would assume he is feeling at least a small degree of relief since the Pennsylvania House just approved a penny-per-dollar increase of the city's sales tax, raising it from 7 percent to 8 percent.
The vote on House Bill 1828 was 112-85. (Here's the roll call vote.)
The legislation will also allow the city to defer payments for two years into the pension fund.
Federal prosecutors took back their scorching criticism of U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter Wednesday, two days after blasting his 55-month sentence for former State Sen. Vincent Fumo as "a travesty."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick, in the case of former City Council aide Christopher Wright, today amended his Aug. 3 sentencing memorandum in which he took issue with Buckwalter's sentence for Fumo and urged Wright's judge to disregard the potential precedent it could set.
Wright, former chief of staff to Councilman Jack Kelly, is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno on Monday after being convicted of conspiracy in a public corruption indictment in February. In his original memo, Bresnick wrote: