Pileggi: Fiscal relief is 'on schedule'

Tonight, Sen. Dominic Pileggi gave the clearest indication that the State Senate will pass legislation allowing the city to increase the sales tax and delay payments to city's pension fund. In a statement issued after the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the measure, Pileggi said that action could soon be taken by the full Senate.

 “The legislation to provide fiscal relief for Philadelphia remains on schedule,” said Pileggi. “Unless a major disagreement emerges, the Senate is in a position to vote on House Bill 1828 on Wednesday. It is possible that the House could concur in our amendments and send the bill to the governor for his signature on Wednesday as well.”

That would be good news for the city, which needs the measure to balance the budget and preserve essential services. The two measures account for more than $700 million in the city's five-year plan. Mayor Nutter has warned that without the measure, he will be forced to layoff nearly 1,000 police officers, close all libraries and recreation centers, and reduce trash pickup to twice a month.

As Senate Majority Leader, Pileggi is in position to delay or even completely block a vote. His willingness to schedule a vote is a signal that the legislation will probably pass. Another good indication: the legislation was approved unanimously by the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee.

However, the legislation is not without some amendments. One big change: the controversial DROP program will be unavailable to elected officials. The bill would also set a schedule for repayments to the pension fund, establish a code of conduct for pension funds, and allow the state to take over bankrupt pension plans. For all the details, see this post at Philly Clout.

Some feared that the amendments would radically alter Philadelphia's pension plan, which would cause a big fight with the city unions. House Democrats would have to choose between organized labor and Mayor Nutter. The amendments seem to be fairly uncontroversial, so the bill will probably pass the State House.