Firefighters hot over possible cuts

August 11, 2009 3:09:13 PM PDT
Philadelphia firefighters are protesting planned budget cuts that include layoffs. Fire Union President Bill Gault blasted Mayor Michael Nutter at a news conference and rally Tuesday morning. He said the personnel cuts will affect the safety of firemen and residents.

"It is unacceptable that the residents should suffer because of a mayor's rookie budget blunder," Gault said.

More firefighter jobs are at risk in the desperate quest to balance the city's budget.

"Firemen always have a backup plan. These people do not," said Gault.

The union is bitter about the mayor's previous cut of 150 firefighter positions, including seven engine companies.

Mayor Nutter said that he needs lawmakers in Harrisburg to approve legislation for plans that would create more revenue for the city and avoid further cuts. However, he said that the bills need to be approved by August 15th.

After that date, he said the city will have to enact a 'doomsday scenario,' which includes massive budget cuts. As many as 200 firefighters could lose their jobs in that spending plan.

"The doomsday situation that we face is wholly of the mayor's making. Citizen and firefighter safety shouldn't be sacrificed because the mayor made a decision to put the future of Philadelphia services in the hands of anti-Philadelphia legislators," said Gault.

Mayor Nutter was in Harrisburg on Tuesday trying to get lawmakers to approve a 1% increase in the city's sales tax and pension payment reforms.

Leaders in the capitol say the city may get some action in a couple of weeks, but August 15th is fast approaching.

City Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr. was at the firefighter's rally. He said he was there to back the firefighters, and said that he and other council members will be ready to come back from their summer recess to knock down any further cuts to the fire department and other public safety services.

If the 'doomsday budget' is enacted, it would be October before layoffs begin.