It's Our Money is asking advocates and citizens to weigh in on the budget deal Council is set to vote on tomorrow. This installment comes from Adam Lang, a citizen activist who fights for open, ethical and efficient government in Philadelphia.
I have to thank the band AC/DC for helping me find the the theme of Philadelphia’s budget and how it is being handled:
“Runaway train, running right off the track.”
While I applaud Councilman O’Neill and Councilman Green for pushing back against the full extent of tax increases and looking more at the spending side of things, everyone on Council seems to be ignoring the fact that it isn’t necessarily the services being delivered that are the problem, but what it costs for City Hall to deliver these services. Until City Hall decides to accept the idea that we pay too much for service delivery, predominantly in pension and medical costs, they will always have to raise taxes or talk about service cuts.
Many in Philadelphia thought Mayor Nutter was going to address this issue in the last budget cycle, because he factored in cost savings from union negotiations, but he failed to step up to the plate and actually have union negotiations. One of the reasons this is so important is because Philadelphia couldn’t afford to fund its pensions (of course we could argue between “couldn’t afford” and “chose not to”) when the economy was good.
Philadelphia can hold the line on tax increases and minimize cuts to services by addressing labor costs. The city simply cannot afford the employee benefit packages that currently exist, which are lucrative in comparison to other public sector plans. Until someone in City Hall stands up to lead on real fiscal issues, the tax and service problems aren’t going to be fixed will get worse.