Nutter: Tax hikes to prevent cuts in essential services

The mayor tempered the news of his proposed sales tax by outlining all the services that the money could save, such as:

Keeping open all libraries; Maintaining the hours of all recreation centers; Maintaining all eight community health centers; Retaining 3,390 slots for after-school programs; Retaining all services for abused and neglected children; Maintaining funding for homeless shelters.

Previously, his administration had been examining big cuts in each of those areas.

In addition to asking the General Assembly for approval to impose a three-year sales tax, the city also is asking for relief for how it amortizes the unfunded portion of its pension fund. Under the city's proposal, the timeline for that liablity would be stretched over 40 years instead of 20.

Nutter said if those two measures are not approved, the cuts in essential services would be drastic. "It is absolutely a place where none of us wants to go," Nutter said.

The reaction to the Mayor's announcement was mixed.

A coalition of unions, homeless advocates, churches and anti-proverty groups had mixed reactions to today's announcement.

Many were relieved that there would not be cuts to the city's homeless system or community health centers.

But they saw a sales tax as too punitive to the city's poorest residents.

If the city has to raise revenue via higher taxes, the approach should be more "fair and equitable," said the Rev. Jesse Brown, of the Calvary Lutheran Church in West Philadelphia.

The mayor, Brown said, is not seeking to raise the business or wage taxes. "It should not only be individuals of the city who are responsible for closing the budget with higher taxes, but also businesses."