In a great scene from The Wire, one of the drug kingpins yells at his lieutenants for bringing him “too many 40 degree days.” People complain about 20 degree days being too cold and start barbecuing if the weather gets to 60 degrees. But, “no one ever says nothing about a 40 degree days.”
Until now, Nutter has been giving us 40 degree days. Despite soaring rhetoric about reform and transparency, he never really backed up his tough talk with action. That seems to have changed with his new budget. He is demanding major sacrifices from city residents, municipal workers, and even elected officials.
And, unlike a 40 degree day, people will have a lot to say about Mayor Nutter's new budget.
If the budget is approved, it will be hard for city residents ignore it. Property-taxes and the sales tax will increase, along with many fees for city services. However, many will also notice that libraries, recreation centers, and health centers will also stay open.
The four municipal unions also must respond to the budget plan. Nutter announced that he would be seeking major concessions during contract negotiations. His spending proposal assumes $125 million in savings from the unions over the next five years. How does Nutter plan to do it? He wants to freeze wages for all city workers and require larger contributions for both healthcare and pension benefits. Nutter is also seeking major changes in the pension plan, lowering benefits for all workers who are not already vested in the current system.
However, unions members are not the only people being asked to make sacrifices. Nutter is also taking aim at City Council. He wants them, along with all other elected officials, to stop using city cars and also make themselves ineligible for the DROP program. Both of these items are nice perks of serving on City Council and are guaranteed to ruffle some feathers. My prediction: If members of Council try to stop portions of the budget, Nutter will try to use these two items to put public pressure on his opponents.
Nutter also wants budget reductions from all independent elected officials, including the row offices and the District Attorney. Already, Lynne Abraham has pushed back against his proposed cuts. Nutter also signaled his interest in potentially eliminating offices such as the Registrar of Wills, Sheriff, City Commissioners, and Clerk of Quarter Sessions.
The biggest question: Will Mayor Nutter be able to win all of these fights? His budget will require taking on entrenched interests and passage through City Council is not guaranteed. The public will decide if they're hot or cold towards his proposal, but one thing is certain: it's no 40 degree day.