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Harrisburg Fiscal Recovery Plan Review

This week at the Harrisburg City Council, Mayor Linda D. Thompson will be going over her fiscal recovery plan which she introduced earlier this month.  It is a bit like Act 47 that has already been rejected but differs in the sense that it requires additional financial state concessions as well as from Dauphin County and the bond issuer that gave substantial financial backing to the city’s $310m incinerator debt.

 

Without backing from at least one of these organizations (to cover the $26m leftover debt from the mayor’s plan), Thompson intends to adopt a 2.2 to 2.5 percent commuter tax which would impact all those who commute to the city irrespective of what county they live in.  The EIT would increase for city residents as well – possibly from 1 to 2.5 percent.

 

Next week Mayor Thompson also intends to hold a public hearing about this plan in the Harrisburg High School auditorium.

Financial Woes Worry Harrisburg Independence

It seems that Harrisburg is in such a poor financial state that the political big-wigs have gotten on the bandwagon now. A group of state senators just last week said that if the city’s plans for financial recovery fails, the state should take over its running. This of course, really wouldn’t fare well for Harrisburg and its independence and would have a direct impact on all its residents and their institutional dealings.

It was Senator Jeffrey Piccola who was behind Senate Bill 11-51.  He is the representative for parts of Daupin and York counties.  According to Wgal if the Act 47 plan isn’t conceded to, “Piccola’s bill would create a three-member management board for the city.”  This should be a step in the right direction.

As well, according to Senator Mike Folmer of R-48th District, “it’s a good lesson to say to elected officials in these other cities, ‘You better pay attention. You may want local control.’ I don’t want local control to be lost. But if you don’t do your job, then you should get fired.”

There is still time though for this not to happen.  In reality, it has to first clear “the Senate community, economic and recreational development committee,” and only then arrive at the House and Gov. Tom Corbett.  Much could happen between now and then.

Hope for Harrisburg?

Will Same Sex Marriage Be Legalized in Pennsylvania?

Now that it’s legal in San Francisco and New York, the question being asked around all of America’s states, is will same sex marriages be happening everywhere? The political word on the street is a resounding no, pretty much since the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans. As well, according to an article in Penn Live, Penn’s own Gov. Tom Corbett “would almost certainly veto the legislation even if it reached his desk.”  It’s certainly no great secret that the Governor is against gay marriage.

In practical terms, given that marriage is codified as “the exclusive province of a man and a woman” through state and federal law, there is a greater chance that forces out of the Keystone State will decide the issue “here and nationwide before state legislators act definitively.”

Further, there could be  a case in which the Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act is challenged with a new, legalized NY marriage.  But even if this doesn’t happen, it is most likely that the US Supreme Act will decide on the issue for good.  According to senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, Austin R. Nimocks, “there are at least 10 active cases in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”

The truth is, gay rights are not new to Pennsylvania since there are many bills introduced that affect gay rights.  But, according to this article, “because both sides vigilantly oppose any legislation that undermines their position, gay marriage appears to be an issue deadlocked in the Legislature.”

Ultimately though, it seems there aren’t so many “state laws targeting gay residents,” which have been described here as “relics reminiscent of the Jim Crow south.”

 

So it remains to be seen what will be for us Harrisburg residents, but it doesn’t seem like we’re in such a rush to follow New York’s lead.

 

Harrisburg Takeover?

If Harrisburg doesn’t get its act together and implement the state Act 47 coordinator proposal fast, there could soon be a takeover of the city.  According to Gov. Tom Corbett who is in favor of the Senate Bill 1151, issued by Jeffrey Piccola, it would facilitate the city’s financial recovery plan while stampeding “any efforts by the city to declare bankruptcy.”  Should city leaders fail to act on this Bill, Piccola will look toward a “three-person management board” to put it into effect.

No More Bankruptcy Options

It seems like the longer it is left, the less chance Harrisburg will have to file for bankruptcy.  The Act 47 plan is remiss of any “debt forgiveness” too.  Corbett – somewhat sensibly IMHO – is saying that he will indeed sign it should it get through the legislative process.  According to councilman Brad Koplinski, Corbett’s support is great, “and really should put all of us on alert as to how quickly this is moving on, and I hate to say it, but the fix might be in for Harrisburg.”

Act 47 Disadvantages

But of course there are always two sides to every coin.  While Corbett may be an Act 47 supporter, he might not realize that it would lead to an increase in taxes and unemployment, alongside a selling or leasing of the “city’s  parking garages and incinerator…to ensure banks get their money back.”  So it seems like the main beneficiary here would be Wall Street, according to Koplinski.

Piccola’s argument however is that Bill 1151 seeks to “protect municipalities and the state itself.”  Declaring bankruptcy is only going to end up “hurting credit ratings elsewhere,” rendering it much harder for townships to borrow money. The city’s mayor, Linda Thompson pointed out however that the bill fails to “respect the publicly elected officials in this city.”  She just doesn’t feel that it is the “appropriate process at this time.”

Well, we might know a little bit more in a few days’ time since it could get to the Senate floor “for a vote Friday,” moving on to the House by next week.  But then state lawmakers are going to be on recess so the timing might end up being not so great and once out of sight, may become out of mind.