Phila. relief bill passes senate

Today, Philadelphia took another step away from fiscal Armageddon. The Pennsylvania Senate just voted to approve House Bill 1828, which provides $700 million dollars in fiscal relief for the city budget. The proposal, which was substantially amended, passed with a bipartisan vote of 38 to 9.

Sen. Larry Farnese, a Philadelphia Democrat who proposed language to ban future elected officials from participateing in DROP, praised the passage of the legislation. “The mayor has made it very clear that the doomsday budget is looming out there,” said Farnese. “We can't afford to have cops laid off. The bill had amendments, but at the end of the day, Philadelphia needs help immediately. This is the way to do it.”

Even critics of the bill found reasons to vote in favor. “I voted no in appropriations committee because of concerns of the Fraternal Order of Police,” said Sen. John Rafferty. “However, I will be voting in affirmative for the bill because of the importance to the city of Pittsburgh and the city of Philadelphia.”

Although the legislation has attracted a lot deal of attention, there was very little debate. Only three Senators actually spoke and none were against the bill. Now, the legislation must be reconsidered by the State House before being sent to Gov. Ed Rendell.

The bill allows Philadelphia to enact a one-percent sales tax increase, delay contributions to the city pension fund and was amended to freeze benefits for current employees and require the city to offer decreased benefits to new employees.