Friday, May 29, 2015

Archive: September, 2009

POSTED: Thursday, October 1, 2009, 2:10 AM

In the middle of Philadelphia’s budget crisis, Mayor Nutter threatened to implement his so-called Plan C if state lawmakers rejected the city’s effort to increase the sales tax and defer pension payments.

Among the more cockamamy proposals in Nutter’s “doomsday” budget was the elimination of funding for the lower courts. That half-baked idea may have helped the city balance its five-year budget on paper, but in reality the move was an act of pure fiction.
 

It’s easy to see why Philadelphia would want to stop spending $100 million a year on the courts.
After all it is the state’s responsibility. That’s right, the state Supreme Court ordered the state legislature in 1987 to fund the lower court system in all 67 counties.
 

Inqui @ 2:10 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 4:16 PM

Ever wonder why the Republican Party in Philadelphia never seems to take a position on any issue? Crime? Corruption? City services?  Or if there are any actual Republicans who care enough about the city to offer an alternative to 60 years of Democratic rule? Or if the GOP has any candidates on the ballot this fall?

This article from Philadelphia magazine is a good place to start answering some of those questions.

Kevin Ferris @ 4:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 2:10 AM

Under the tentative state budget deal, the Philadelphia School District expects to receive an additional $306 million in funding.

Gov. Rendell has yet to sign the state budget, and already the school district is crying about an expected $160 million budget gap.
 

What gives?
 

Inquirer editorial board @ 2:10 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 2:00 AM

It’s hard to see the downside of President Obama’s decision to travel to Europe Thursday night to lobby personally for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago.

But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to find fault with the president promoting his country. One nattering nabob of negativism is Sen. Kit Bond (R., Mo.).
 

“I think it’s baffling that the president has time to travel to Copenhagen,” Bond said. “His number-one responsibility is to keep our country safe.”
 

Inquirer editorial board @ 2:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 4:55 PM

While a smoking ban on beaches and parks may secure New Jersey’s standing as a leading nanny state, it would be a savvy economic strategy to bolster the state’s billion-dollar tourism industry while saving lives.

A couple of Shore towns have already enacted smoking limits. But at the rate individual communities are going to ban smoking on the beaches, it could take years to safeguard large numbers of bathers from the health risks of secondhand smoke.

Even better, a North Jersey lawmaker, State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), plans to introduce a measure to ban smoking on all 127 miles of Jersey beaches and in parks, citing “empirical data which support the passage of this public-health and environmental-protection measure.”

Inquirer editorial board @ 4:55 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 4:50 PM

As legislators in Harrisburg patch together a budget with baling wire and chewing gum, their scrambling effort highlights loopholes in the state sales tax.

The legislature might not be scrounging to pay for schools and roads if the statewide 6 percent sales tax were applied more fairly and were updated to reflect changes in the economy.
 

An article in Sunday’s<NO1>9/27<NO> Inquirer pointed out there are few rules for deciding which goods and services get taxed in Pennsylvania. Sometimes an exemption boils down to which company or industry has the better lobbyist.
 

Inquirer editorial board @ 4:50 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009, 2:00 AM
Mayor Nutter, speaking recently at an older-adult center after the Legislature OK'd budget relief, has said that he still needs concessions from city workers to balance the budget. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff photographer)

Maybe it wasn’t such good theater when Mayor Nutter had city firefighters burn 3,000 layoff notices the other week, once the firings were averted due to the state budget deal.

Facing a continuing demand to cut city spending — and with labor costs the obvious target — Nutter could find himself sifting through the ashes for those pink slips.
 
As he turns his attention to renewing labor pacts with the city’s main unions, the mayor’s spokesman says Nutter subscribes to the “general agreement that there will be no need for massive layoffs.”
 
But a new report out last week on budget-balancing strategies used by other financially strapped cities indicates that Nutter — unlike some big-city peers — has unilaterally disarmed too soon.
 
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative, mayors in New York, Chicago, Boston and elsewhere have given municipal workers an unwelcome but necessary choice: accept across-the-board, often temporary concessions on pay and benefits, or face layoffs.
 
It’s not a question of bluffing, either. Boston’s mayor went ahead with nearly 500 layoffs and Chicago’s cut 431 jobs after some unions rejected concessions. But New York and Los Angeles officials were able to avert layoffs after their unions agreed to other cuts.
 
These trade-offs are being debated at a time when, as Pew notes, cities’ revenue estimates are being revised downward, forcing “major, midcourse adjustments.”
 
Given the fiscal problems faced by most big cities, including Philadelphia, the only realistic way out is to reduce employee costs either through staff cuts or savings on pension and health benefits.
 
While Nutter emerged from the Harrisburg budget debacle armed with a temporary penny-on-the-dollar  sales-tax hike and savings from deferred pension-fund payments, he’s still smart to push to hold the line on wages for five years and trim benefits by $25 million a year.
 
As the Pew report predicts: “If the administration holds to those positions, the non-uniformed unions may wind up in the same situation as unions elsewhere — forced to make concessions or face job losses.”
 
For municipal union leaders, the demand for concessions versus layoffs may appear to be a Hobson’s choice. But isn’t it better to limit the number of jobs lost, even if it means short-term setbacks on pay and benefits?
 
So far, though, there has been little sign that the municipal unions grasp the dire fiscal situation. Even with the threat of massive layoffs, union leaders worked to scuttle a reasonable state Senate proposal to tame runaway pension costs.
 
With that brinkmanship, in effect, union leaders risked layoffs and cuts in basic city services.
 
Now the question is whether the city and union leaders gathered around the bargaining table — and those working on contract arbitrations for police and firefighters — expect a return to the good old days.
 
That would mean labor contracts that rely on Band-Aids and tax hikes to muddle through. Worse, it would pass up a recession-driven opportunity to right-size government through careful review.
 
Taxpayers and everyone who looks to essential city services have to hope Nutter hangs tough on his demands, and that union leaders remember those smoldering layoff notices could be reprinted.
Inquirer Editorial Board @ 2:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009, 1:00 AM

Gov. Corzine and his Republican rival, Christopher J. Christie, don’t seem to agree on much as the gubernatorial race lurches through its inevitably ugly last days. But they both support property-tax rebates.
 

It’s probably no coincidence that the Tax Foundation just “awarded” New Jersey yet another No. 1 ranking on its list of the nation’s most burdensome property levies. No matter how many such prizes the state accumulates, its leaders remain fiercely loyal to policies that have failed to solve the problem.
 

Chief among them is the costly fiscal and political sideshow known as property-tax rebates. These annual checks are funded by income taxes, claimed on income-tax returns, and based partly on income — in other words, related to property taxes in name only. Meanwhile, the nation’s highest property levy continues its inexorable ascent.
 

Inquirer editorial board @ 1:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

Find out more about The Inquirer's Editorial Board here.

The Inquirer Editorial Board
Also on Philly.com
letter icon Newsletter