For now, Philly will remain a DROP zone

Posted: September 16, 2011

DROPPING DROP isn't happening any time soon.

City Council yesterday unanimously voted to override Mayor Nutter's veto of a bill that would preserve the controversial pension program while attempting to reduce its cost.

Nutter has pushed Council to simply end the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, arguing that the city cannot afford the perk, estimated to have cost $100 million since 1999. But Council - which has seven members who are current or past DROP enrollees - chose instead to modify DROP in the spring.

"The bill that they passed is tinkering around the edges, at best," Nutter said yesterday. "The taxpayers can't afford it."

The legislation would delay entry into DROP for nonuniformed workers and would lower the earned interest rate for future participants. Council's consultant predicted that the changes would carry a one-time cost of $15 million to $20 million.

DROP allows city workers to set a retirement date up to four years in the future, at which point their pension benefit is frozen and they start accruing payments in an interest-bearing account while on the payroll. When the employees retire, they collect a lump sum and start receiving pension payments.

DROP has drawn public ire because elected officials have enrolled - including some who signed up, ran for re-election and "retired" for a day to collect a payout before returning to serve.

Nutter hopes to find more support for ending DROP in 2012, when Council will have at least six new members.

Also in Council yesterday:

*  Councilman Bill Greenlee did not get the votes to override Nutter's veto of a bill that would require most Philadelphia employers to provide paid sick leave.

"I know right now we don't have 12 votes, but I say to the advocates, 'Please hang in there; we're going to make it happen,' " Greenlee said.

*  Council voted 12-5 in favor of legislation from Councilman Jim Kenney that would roll back the city's 20 percent parking tax.

The city raised the rate from 15 percent to 20 percent in 2008. Kenney's legislation would cut the rate to 17 percent, with the reductions starting in the 2014 fiscal year. Kenney argued that the parking industry had been unfairly targeted, but Nutter lobbied against the bill, saying that he would rather seek broad tax cuts for all industries. Nutter yesterday declined to say whether he'd veto the bill.

*  Greenlee introduced legislation that would require bouncers at bars and clubs to be registered with the city and receive training.

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