It seems like Philadelphia has been waiting forever for legislation that would help balance the city budget. Now, it seems like we'll have to wait a little longer. Yesterday, Pa. House Speaker Keith McCall told reporters that no vote would be held until September 8th.
That means nearly two weeks will pass between the State Senate's approval of the legislation and the House vote.
Without the bill, which authorizes an increase in the sales tax and deferment of pension payments, Philadelphia will lose nearly $700 million in revenue over the next five years. Time is of the essence, since the city loses $10 million for every month of inaction.
So why the hold up? Below are the factors driving Harrisburg to delay action on Philly's budget legislation.
Process. This is the argument that you hear most often from legislators and staffers. Passing legislation is complicated and delays are simply part of the process. Right now, there is a lot of legislation floating around and there is only so much space on the legislative calendar. Also, in order to vote, the House would have to be called back into session and that is something of a logistical challenge in the last two weeks of August.
Policy. One of the factors driving the delay is that the State Senate significantly amended the original bill. The legislation passed by the State House was straightforward fiscal relief for Philadelphia. Now, the bill contains major reforms for pension systems across the state. The amendments are over 50 pages long and need to be carefully considered before being passed. Legislative analysts from both chambers are busy trying to make sense of the amendments and figure out the implications.
Politics. I think this is really the biggest factor driving the delay. There still is no state budget and House Democrats are eager to figure that out before dealing with Philadelphia's problems. Also, the House Democrats could be trying to use the Philadelphia legislation to put some leverage on Gov. Rendell during the state budget negotiations. Finally, many members of the State House have received campaign contributions from organized labor and may be feeling pressure to vote against the amended bill.
It's hard to know exactly what is happening, but there are some of the reasons that we won't get a vote until the week after next. What do you think is driving the delay?