Big three call for help … Philly mayor joins Ravenstahl, Fitzgerald on cuts

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With the June 30 deadline for the new state budget approaching, and state revenues running ahead of expectations, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in calling for proposed cuts to transit and human services funding to be rescinded.

BigThree
BIG THREE—Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, center, gives his support to Rich Fitzgerald, left, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, right. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“The good news is that Allegheny County is the only region outside Texas seeing job growth,” said Fitzgerald. “The Shell plant in Monaca, the movie industry, high tech and medical—we’re doing well. But if the Port Authority cuts service by 35 percent, as they voted to do the other day. All of that is in jeopardy. Companies will leave if their employees can’t get to work.”

Ravenstahl noted Pittsburgh is receiving international attention as a clean and vibrant place to live, work and enjoy life. That too could cease.

A lot of the strides we’ve made were done with the help of the state,” he said. “We’re concerned because the future depends on state help. We hope the governor and the legislature understand the needs of urban areas.”

Nutter thanked both local executives for the opportunity to call on Harrisburg with a united voice about the ramifications of proposed state cuts noting that between them they represent 40 percent of the state’s population. Of particular importance to his constituents in Southeastern Pennsylvania is the pending 20 percent, across-the-board cut in human services funding, which he said would be devastating.

“I know we’re dealing with the aftermath of a recession, but these cuts to social services are penny-wise and pound-foolish and will have a huge affect across the state,” he said. “We’d see homelessness increase, and with cuts to mental health services, we’d be back to the position of having to institutionalize people. We’re not asking for more, we’re just asking not to have less.”

Nutter noted Gov. Tom Corbett has been helpful to city/county by expanding KOZ zones, by supporting the Navy Yard and by brokering a deal just one day earlier to help Delta Airlines buy a Philadelphia oil refinery and prevent it from closing.

Fitzgerald said he just met with the governor about finding funds for PAT and that he knows it’s important.

“The corporate community has really stepped up on this too. But he was clear that he wanted to see more savings from management and from the new drivers’ contract being negotiated now before he’d partner with us,” he said. “Revenues are up, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to avert these cuts.”

Still, even though they represent the three largest job centers in the state and are in almost daily contact with state legislators, Fitzgerald, Ravenstahl and Nutter admitted they have no backup plan. As mayor of a Class 1 city, even though Nutter has taxing authority that doesn’t require state approval, he said the magnitude of the cuts is so great it could not be made up with local fees or taxes.

When asked if they could get permission to use federal capital funds for these operational shortfalls Nutter was blunt.

“Have you seen what’s going on in Washington? They couldn’t agree on the time of day if they were standing in front of the atomic clock,” he said. “So, we’ll try to deal with our problems here on the ground.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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