It's Our Money is asking various experts and advocates to grade the Nutter administration on its performance in the budget process -- it's handling of the process, and the quality of the budget it ultimately got, given the circumstances. This assessment is from Adam Lang, a Republican activist who fights for open and ethical government in Philadelphia.
Grade: D (with extra credit)
Comments: The first thing that has to be kept in mind is that the national economy didn’t create our budget problems this year, it merely expedited them. The gas leak was already there, the economy only lit the match. Pensions were already underfunded, health and pension costs were already out of control, tax collections were already a disaster, the size of government had been increasing and Mayor Nutter had even spent our entire reserves from an existing cash surplus in his first year's budget.
With that in mind, Mayor Nutter’s handling of this year’s budget was filled with more bad policy that broke many of his campaign promises. Ending Philadelphia’s reign as “most taxed city”? He raised taxes. Fixing pension underfunding? He added $65 million in payments by putting off obligations to the future. Improving public safety? He threatened to lay off hundreds of police officers.* Building a better relationship with Harrisburg? The rest of the state is angrier with us than ever. The only reason I'm not failing him is that he was working with the lodestone City Council put around his neck. His initial budget plans weren't great, but they were better than the Council-approved final result.
*This sentence was corrected. It originally stated that the mayor threatened to lay off 3,000 police officers, which is not true.