Nutter's Plan C eyes cuts in courts, D.A.'s Office

Posted: August 20, 2009

Mayor Nutter yesterday put more pressure on Harrisburg lawmakers, announcing that if the state doesn't approve city-budget relief, the administration will slash funding for the First Judicial District, the District Attorney's Office and the Public Defender.

"We need action, we need action now, without delay so we do not have to implement Plan C," said Nutter at a City Hall news conference.

Nutter's budget plan relies on getting state approval to increase the local sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar for five years and to change how the city's pension fund is replenished. Those moves account for $700 million over five years.

But since the city is almost two months into the fiscal year without word from Harrisburg, Nutter must submit a contingency budget - known as Plan C - by the end of the month to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the state agency that oversees the city budget. Implementation would soon follow.

Under Plan C, nearly 3,000 city workers would lose their jobs, including police officers and firefighters. All libraries and recreation centers would close. And trash would be collected every other week.

Nutter yesterday stressed that the criminal justice system would also take a horrific cut.

"If we don't have the money to fund the system, we would have to partially shut it down," Nutter said.

Nutter did not go into details on how the cuts would take effect, instead stressing that they could be avoided if the state Senate approves House Bill 1828, legislation that allows the city to temporarily raise the sales tax and change payments into the pension fund.

"We had hoped to never, ever be in this situation," Nutter said. "Unfortunately, we are running out of time."

Nutter today plans to submit a five-year Plan C to City Council.

Republicans in the state Senate have said that they could be ready to vote on House Bill 1828 as early as next Wednesday.

They held a hearing yesterday at which Appropriations chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre County, noted that the legislation wasn't passed in the state House of Representatives until August.

He complained that the late timing, coupled with press conferences calling for Senate action, was "unfair."

Asked if he feared backlash in Harrisburg over events like yesterday's news conference, Nutter said no, noting that he felt an obligation to keep citizens informed.

"We're not trying to create any consternation in Harrisburg," he said.

Staff writer John Baer contributed to this report.

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