ShareThis Page
News

Rendell questions city bailout by recess

| Wednesday, June 25, 2003, 12:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Ed Rendell said Tuesday that the city might not get financial bailout legislation before lawmakers recess for the summer.

Rendell, a political ally of Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, said he still hopes the Legislature will authorize new revenue sources for the strapped city. He added, though, that a packed legislative agenda with little time remaining might nudge out a bailout plan.

"The problem is it's late ... and there's much to do, as the Legislature consistently reminds us," Rendell said.

He cited such statewide priorities as prescription benefits for low-income elderly; a lessened reliance on property taxes; legalization of slot machines at racetracks; enactment of early-childhood education programs; and his $2 billion economic-stimulus plan.

Lawmakers are expected to recess for the summer in early July -- leaving only about a half-dozen voting days before July 4.

After Rendell made his comments at a news conference yesterday, his press office attempted to back away from his statement.

"The governor still believes this (can happen) before summer recess," said Rendell's press secretary Kate Philips, adding that Rendell's statement was "only a hypothetical."

Murphy's spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said Pittsburgh "faces very difficult choices if we are unable to move forward with a relief package."

The city has a projected budget deficit this year of $60 million. City officials have said Pittsburgh could run out of money by November. Murphy has said hundred of layoffs could occur unless the Legislature helps.

The bailout issue, though, is not dead. Moving forward depends on whether the Pittsburgh business community backs a plan, Rendell said. If Murphy reaches agreement with business leaders, Rendell would ask lawmakers to approve legislation.

State Rep. Frank Dermody, an Oakmont Democrat and chairman of the Allegheny County delegation, said he has heard that the city and businesses "are getting close on an agreement. ... I expect to look at concrete proposals in a day or two."

Proposals to help dig Pittsburgh out of its financial hole include an increase in the $10-a-year occupation tax; a fee on employees of tax-exempt nonprofit institutions, such as universities; and the elimination of city tax exemptions for manufacturers, banks, utilities and financial institutions, coupled with a lower business-privilege tax.

State Rep. Dan Frankel, the Squirrel Hill Democrat leading the push for a financial package for Pittsburgh, said he hopes "we can do it -- it's to everybody's advantage."

State Rep. Michael Diven, a South Side Democrat, said he is not surprised by Rendell's remarks. He attributed the dimmed hope for a bailout before July partly a result of the lack of "any clear picture" on state spending and key items on Rendell's agenda.

Despite the circumstances in Harrisburg, now isn't "time to throw up the white flag," said state Rep. Don Walko, a North Side Democrat.

Republicans and some Democrats in the General Assembly have said they want to see further spending cuts by the city before a tax package would be enacted.

"Delaying it until the fall would give the City Council ample opportunity to further cut the city's budget, rather than put it all on our backs," said state Rep. Tom Stevenson, a Mt. Lebanon Republican.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me