Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Council fighting for cuts? What a strange world.

Catherine Lucey has a must-read story in today's Daily News for anyone interested in the city budget. The article makes clear what many already knew: There is absolutely no agreement between Mayor Nutter and City Council about how to deal with the $135 million budget hole.

Council fighting for cuts? What a strange world.

CLEM MURRAY

Catherine Lucey has a must-read story in today's Daily News for anyone interested in the city budget. The article makes clear what many already knew: There is absolutely no agreement between Mayor Nutter and City Council about how to deal with the $135 million budget hole.

This isn't surprising, given the discord between the Mayor and City Council over the past two years. However, one item in the story stood out to us as being unusual. Councilman Bill Green doesn't agree with Mayor Nutter's revenue options, but isn't pushing an alternative tax hike as the primary way to deal with the problem. Instead, Green wants the city to make even more budget cuts to handle the deficit.

Before Council concluded business, Councilman Bill Green made an impassioned speech in favor of further cuts to close the city budget gap. Green argued that if the city doesn't hire to fill hundreds of vacant jobs and reduce the surplus budget dollars, smaller tax hikes would be needed.

Why is this noteworthy? Well, frankly, City Council is not known for cutting programs. Generally, Council members represent specific constituencies that oppose cuts. Council also tends to side with city unions during disputes with mayoral administrations.

So where does Green want to cut? He's not going after specific programs, instead focusing on eliminating unfilled positions in various city departments.

Green's list of suggested cuts - totaling about $45 million - have been circulating in Council offices. He suggests not filling vacant jobs in many departments, including prisons, fire and police. He also wants the city to reduce the surplus in the next fiscal year from $64 million to $20 million.

The Nutter administration says the city has already made enough cuts, and that getting rid of all of these jobs is unrealistic. It also questions the wisdom of reducing the fund balance to such a low level.

We have no idea how this debate will shake out. But Green's proposal guarantees that there will be some debate about more cuts to city government.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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