One thing emerged Tuesday from City Council's hearings on the impact of state cuts to the homeless, mental health and other human services: Local pols and advocates agree about how lamentable this situation is.
Not so clear: ideas for how the city will deal with the fallout.
The cuts, which will deprive Philadelphia of $42 million, are being sold by the Corbett administration as new efficiencies in the state budgeting process. Gov. Corbett proposes combining several individual streams of funding — for homeless, mental-health programs, etc. — into one "block grant" for each municipality to distribute where it's needed most.
This gives municipalities flexibility, with less paperwork, hence the efficiencies.
Overall, block granting is a reasonable reform. The Corbett administration, however, is doing it in an unreasonable way, by packaging the reform with a 20 percent budget cut.
In other words, this is just a Trojan horse for cuts that will impact the mentally ill, the homeless, children with intellectual disabilities, youth aging out of the child-welfare system, and kids in after-school programs.
Such cuts put cities and municipalities behind the eight ball, since they have to confront the fallout at ground level, amid their own strained budgets.
Such cuts are also not new: Almost every year, our city and others bemoan how casually the state is intent on shredding the social-safety net. And yet, the state continues the shredding.
So we're not holding out much hope for Council members and the mayor's idea for combating these cuts. They advocate that Philadelphians need to raise our voices, let the state know how damaging these cuts are, and how angry we'll get if they go through. But the Corbett administration has shown little concern for the state's safety net.
A more promising idea was floated by Councilman Jim Kenney, who recalled meeting with rural legislators angry about Corbett's proposed agricultural cuts, and suggested building an unorthodox alliance with them.
We think the city should go even further, and look to alliances with the surrounding counties not only for advocating against the cuts, but to find solutions to the social problems they're forced to confront. In fact, a structure exists that could make this easy: the Metropolitan Caucus formed by Mayor Nutter in 2009.
Another is the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which testified yesterday in Council. CCAP's efforts helped create the Marcellus Shale gas fee that Corbett reluctantly signed, and they believe their success stemmed from the fact that they appealed to lawmakers of different ideologies, from all over the state.
The state cuts aren't just a Philly problem, but the city can take the lead in marshaling the many cities and towns that all stand to lose from Corbett's cuts.
This "It's Our Money" editorial also appeared in the Daily News.