As President Barack Obama and House and Senate leaders try to reach an agreement on revenues and spending cuts to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff," mayors across Pennsylvania are urging Congress to avoid large funding cuts for cities in the commonwealth.
“If the federal deficit reduction plan does not include significant new revenues, cities, and counties, and school districts all across Pennsylvania and across the country unfortunately will bear the significant burden of those reductions,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Unless the White House and Congress reach an agreement to avoid the cliff, a combination of spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to go into effect at the start of 2013. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires a $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending over a ten year period, coupled with tax increases for nearly all income levels. The tax cuts that took effect under President George W. Bush would be rescinded.
“If Congress does not act, 98 percent of Pennsylvania families who make less than $250,000 will see their taxes go up." Nutter said. "It (a recent White House analysis) also concluded that consumer spending would fall by $200 billion across the nation and by $8.6 billion just in Pennsylvania.”
Mayors including Nutter, Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, Kim Bracey of York and Vaughn Spencer of Reading today discussed the impact that a deficit reduction package could have on cities across the state.
“Cities know, as we have worked through our own issues, we just can’t cut our way back to prosperity," said Pawlowski. "There has to be cuts—reasonable cuts—accompanied with reasonable revenue enhancements to be able to get your fiscal house back on track.”
Bracey claimed that members of Congress are "detached from reality" and removed from the real issues.
"They don’t understand the real cost of governing," Bracey said. "Their policy of inaction has been de facto policy to more burden and strain the taxes on our cities throughout the Commonwealth and our middle-class citizens.”
Reading Mayor Spencer said the only way to turn cities around is through economic development.
"If we don’t do what the President is asking for, and create those new revenues, we’re going to be in dire straits as far as being able to provide all of the things necessary to bring this city back.”
According to Philadelphia Mayor Nutter the challenge is that many Republicans have been saying "no" to any new revenues and have not been specific about deductions and closing tax loopholes.