State of control: Pittsburgh can keep its discipline under Act 47

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Gov. Tom Corbett gave the city of Pittsburgh some help last Thursday, not so it could spend more but so it would spend less.

Mr. Corbett left in place, at the request of Mayor Bill Peduto, the state financial oversight provided by the Act 47 distressed municipalities program. The city has used the program — plus the parallel fiscal watchdog appointed by the Legislature, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority — to pull itself back from the brink of insolvency a decade ago.

Although much progress has been made through the budgetary discipline instilled in city officials by the two state agencies, Pittsburgh is not really out of the woods financially.

Its pension plan is only 64 percent funded, one-sixth ($87 million) of its total spending this year will go to pay down debt and it is falling behind on maintaining its streets. The city also faces critical negotiations with the police and firefighter unions, which have the potential of blowing up any responsible spending plan.

In short, Pittsburgh still needs all the budget-balancing tools it can get. The governor was right to oblige by continuing the help from Act 47. It’s now up to the mayor, city council and the city employee unions to continue to live within the taxpayers’ means.

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