Nutter: Pa. budget needed now

July 30, 2009 8:15:19 PM PDT
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter himself lead a protest of the Pennsylvania budget stalemate at City Hall on Thursday.From Mayor Michael Nutter's perspective, there's a doomsday clock ticking in Philadelphia's future, a clock that could have devastating effects without action from Harrisburg.

"Time is of the essence because we may be forced to take a variety of actions that none of us want to take," Mayor Nutter said.

With the clock ticking towards August 15, the date the city would have to cut $700-million from its 5 year budget plan, the mayor is asking legislators in Harrisburg to help, by approving a temporary 1% boost in the city's sales tax and making changes to the city's pension plan payment schedule.

"We're not asking for a handout, we're asking for a hand from our fellow elected officials in Harrisburg, give us the tools to do what it is that we need to do," Mayor Nutter said.

Here's just a glimpse of what the mayor says will happen if the budget isn't passed soon:

-972 positions eliminated from the police force.

-6 engine companies and 3 ladder companies in fire department deactivated.

-2 city health centers closed, and operations ceased at all libraries and Fairmount Park.

-Close to 3,000 city positions eliminated.

"As much hope, as much faith as we have, we cannot run a government solely on hope, we need money," Nutter said.

Among those packed in the City Hall courtyard for a rally protesting the state's budget stalemate, a number of nonprofits that say the cuts will devastate all who rely on their services.

"This means people won't have food to eat or places to live or clothing or access to medical care so it's really a desperate situation," Kevin Burns of ActionAIDS said.

"Services will have to stop because people aren't getting paid, I mean, it's that simple, if you can't pay your bills, you can't operate," Jay Henry of Equal Partnership in Change.

A budget stalemate in Harrisburg, the city bleeding in the wake of one of the worse economic recessions in decades, has the makings of a perfect storm for disaster says one administration official. Indeed, Mayor Nutter himself is asking everyone in the city and the suburbs to urge their legislators to act.

If the House and the Senate don't pass the legislation regarding the pension plans and sales tax by August 15, the city will be forced to redraft a new five year budget plan including the drastic cuts.

To avoid massive reductions, the mayor says Harrisburg needs to approve a temporary 1% boost in local sales tax and changes to the city's pension payments.