Election year budget starts free of tax hike

After three budgets that included proposals like double-digit tax hikes, a “soda tax,” library shutdowns and trash collection fees, Mayor Michael Nutter introduced a fee-free budget in his re-election year Thursday.

An at-times emotional Nutter described a city “smarter, greener, safer” than when he took office in 2008, but talked of still more change needed for the generation of children now in city schools.

“These are my kids. These are my rec centers,” Nutter said toward the end of a 30-minute speech. “This is my city. I care.”

Though wage and business privilege tax decreases have again been shelved in the new proposed budget, Nutter boasted of no new taxes after closing a $1 billion-plus deficit in the past two years.

“To balance our budget we will not ask for more revenue from our citizens,” Nutter said inside a crowded City Council chamber. “We’ll continue to cut spending — an additional $14 million over the next five years on top of the more than $1 billion in the last two.”

That could all change next week.

That’s when Gov. Tom Corbett will take his turn at the podium in Harrisburg, unveiling his proposal for a 2011 state budget and how he’ll close a roughly $4 billion hole between last year’s spending levels and this year’s revenue projections.

It may mean millions in cuts to Philadelphia’s share of state funding.

“We now need to be ready to fight drastic, across-the-board cuts that will reverse gains made,” Nutter said.

GOP Council candidate’s reaction

Malcolm Lazin, who recently received the Republican City Commit­tee’s backing for a Council at-large seat, said after the mayor’s address that the city has to go farther in cutting spending and lowering taxes.

Lazin, a leading gay-rights advocate who founded Philadelphia-based Equality Forum, said he would lead by example if elected, vowing that he wouldn’t accept health care or pension benefits.

The number one goal, he said, is to “reduce the tax burden on businesses and citizens” and stim­ulate job creation for people to support them­selves.” –Miike Pifer/Metro

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