Mayor Nutter: GOP budget is 'scary'

Mayor Nutter says the current state budget could be devestating

Nutter is still lobbying legislators to authorize critical elements of the $3.8 billion city budget, including a 1-cent sales-tax increase, a two-year delay of $230 million in pension contributions, and structural changes to the pension fund to reduce the city's annual contribution.

But yesterday Nutter said he could get everything he had asked from the legislature and still be dealt "a devastating blow" under the Republican Senate bill scenario making the rounds at the state Capitol.

"It's a little scary at the moment . . . Senate Bill 850 and what it would possibly do to the commonwealth and the city of Philadelphia," Nutter said in an interview yesterday with the Inquirer editorial board. "This is a weird version of someone who gives you $25, then takes $35 out of the other pocket."

Neither state Democrats nor Republicans could detail the impact of the proposed pared-down budget on individual counties, and Nutter said he was still trying to nail down numbers. But with potential cuts to education and social services, he estimated the city could end up "somewhere between Plan B and Plan C."

Philadelphians do not want to hear those words.

"Plan B" was Nutter's contingency budget should he fail to get the sales-tax increase and pension adjustments. It included $81 million in annual service cuts. The plan called for eliminating 480 police officer positions; eliminating three medic units and five fire companies; limiting garbage pickup to three times a month; closing a health center; reducing recreation centers to four hours a day; and reducing 1,000 traffic signals to flashing only.

"Plan C" is worse, envisioning a scenario under which the city gets no help at all from Harrisburg.

The city has not released details of that plan. Nutter said it involves between 600 and 800 fewer police officers as well as 200 fewer firefighter positions. Nutter said he might have to close whole city departments.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), said, "We certainly haven't been asked for or provided to the mayor or city officials details about Senate Bill 850."

Pileggi said the Republican plan represented just a 2 percent reduction from last year.

"Why the mayor thinks that would have disastrous effects on the city of Philadelphia puzzles me," Pileggi said.