Philly workers may get layoff notices Friday

PHILADELPHIA. - September 17, 2009 The layoffs would be effective Oct. 2 and include more than 1,000 police officers and firefighters.

The city is trying to close a $1.4 billion, five-year budget deficit.

Mayor Michael Nutter has been lobbying the Legislature to approve a temporary sales tax increase in Philadelphia and allow changes to how the city makes its pension payments.

Nutter says most of the layoffs could be rescinded if the Legislature acts.

Nutter left Philadelphia for Harrisburg on Thursday morning to lobby lawmakers to pass House Bill 1828, which he says will raise some $700 million for the city.

The plan would allow the city to raise its sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and defer pension payments for two years.

"I am hopeful that today action will be taken and that we can bring an end to this particular chapter," Nutter said before leaving Philadelphia. "We should no longer have to just talk about budgets. What we should be talking about is building a bright future for our city. We should not be talking about layoffs."

A coalition of city labor unions and activist organizations raised their voice in City Hall on Thursday, saying there is another way to go other than layoffs and vital service cuts.

"It is time to stop using the city workers as a political football in this game that the mayor is playing with the state," said Kashim Bowles of AFSCME D.C. 47.

"Can you imagine a world without libraries? It could happen. Imagine a world with every rec center shuttered, every park no longer maintained. A world only for the well-to-do," said Sherrie Cohen of the Coalition for Essential Government.

As City Council returned from its summer break, one of the mayor's chief adversaries, Councilman Bill Green, said he did not think the mayor's so-called "Doomsday Budget" plan will work, and said there is another way to salvation.

"In the out years we can increase the wage tax, we can increase the business tax, we can look at some property tax increases. But, we're not going to close the court system. It's irresponsible, we're not going to do it. We're not going to close the libraries, we're not going to close all the rec centers."

Philadelphia police brace for layoffs

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says more than 700 police officers will get layoff notices Friday unless the state Legislature takes action to help the city with its finances.

Ramsey met privately Wednesday evening with some of the 739 police officers and 43 support staff workers who would be laid off. He says he already has 200 fewer officers than he did a year ago and losing hundreds more "just cannot happen."

Ramsey says he told the employees that layoffs will take effect Oct. 2 if they happen. The employees could be brought back at any time if the Legislature passes House Bill 1828.

Rendell rejects Pa. lawmakers' latest budget offer

Gov. Ed Rendell is rejecting an offer made by legislative negotiators last night in an effort to end the state's 2½-month budget impasse.

Rendell said at an event in Bensalem on Thursday that the latest offer still doesn't contain the kind of revenue necessary to avoid another deficit.

Rendell's comments were carried by the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

The governor repeated his intention to veto such a proposal, but says he is still hopeful that legislators will submit a better plan.

The legislators announced a nearly $28 billion spending plan late last week, and have been working since then to sway Rendell.

Pennsylvania is the last state in the nation still wrestling over its budget.

Associated Press writer Marc Levy contributed to this report

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