The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Calling for an increase in local taxes and cuts in city services, Mayor Wilson Goode presented his eighth and final budget message before a special session of City Council last night. Goode presented the $2.3 billion budget, which relies on $67.2 million in new local taxes, and told Council members and the city to "bite the bullet." The mayor introduced a five-point plan, heavily dependent on help from in Harrisburg, to save the city from its overwhelming deficits. In addition to the tax increase, the plan calls for the creation of a new state authority to borrow money and lend it to the city, full state funding for state-mandated programs, state authorization of a one-percent sales tax and a reduction in "government costs." According to the mayor's budget for fiscal year 1992, which begins July 1, the city will carry over deficits of $219 million and a current deficit of $8 million. According to the City Charter, a final budget is due at the end of May. Goode blasted the state for its refusal to fund state-mandated services and called for a reversal in the trend. "I call on our leaders in Harrisburg to recognize that the state can no longer weigh us down with under-funded mandates and then expect us to swim," Goode said. Goode said Philadelphia suffers more than other cities, because of its unique nature which requires that it pay for programs traditionally borne separately by city and county authorities. Without the state aid, Goode said, the city would have to consider the possibility of raising taxes 22 percent, and of cutting funds to the police, firefighters, sanitation department, public libraries, Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Predicting that the city would run out of money by July, Goode chastised Council for ignoring his warnings in previous years. "There is nothing new about what I proposed," he said in his office after the speech. "I've been proposing it since 1988. People have not listened, and because they have not listened, we have dug a deeper and deeper hole." City Council members were overwhelmingly pessimistic about the chances of receiving aid from the state or federal government or approval for the tax increase. "I am not optimistic about the state aid," said Democratic Council member Angel Ortiz. "Unless we get massive assistance, the city faces severe cutbacks and taxes." City Controller Jonathan Saidel said Philadelphia's problems are not over. "The mayor said in essence, 'I can't do it alone, I have to have help.' " Saidel said. "There was no budget presented here." Goode rebutted the Council members' doubts over the probability of receiving state aid, saying U.S. Rep. William Gray (D-Phila.) had assured him that that he would work to get the federal money. Democratic mayoral candidate George Burrell faulted the mayor for proposing tax increases and blasted Council Appropriations Committee Chairperson John Street for poor leadership in the handling of past budgets. "I do not, and I will not, support an increase in local taxes," Burrell said. The mayor admitted that the part of his plan that faces the biggest difficulty in Council is the tax increase. In an election year, such a move would be politically difficult to pass through Council. However, Goode added, he was not prepared to sign a "wish list" budget from Council, saying that without a tax hike, spending cuts will be necessary. "I'm prepared to listen to any other proposals, I'm prepared to listen to any other budgets," Goode said. "And I'm prepared to veto the budget this time if it isn't a real budget with real numbers. If they don't like the taxes, then tell me what they are prepared to cut." The creation of a state oversight committee to handle the city's finances was a condition of a loan from the city's pension fund. According to the loan agreement, the city was required to ask for the creation of a state committee to help oversee its finances. Goode said last night the bill creating the board will be introduced by State Sen. Vincent Fumo (D-Phila.) and State Rep. Robert O'Donnell (D-Phila.) sometime next week. Goode added that losing control of city finances has become inevitable. "We missed our last opportunity in last year's budget to control our destiny ourselves," Goode said. As the mayor presented his budget he said he gave the proposal with "a combination of pride, disappointment, and optimism." In his speech, he highlighted the progress the city has made, citing the development of the Center City skyline, the rehabilitation of 30th Street Station and the construction of the Vine Street Expressway. However, he said that "the day of reckoning is here," and that the city had to face up to its responsibilities. "We must finally, firmly and fully act and accept responsibility," Goode said. "If we do not, sometime this summer, this city will run out of money."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.