Budget on ice: County council is blocking critical projects

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Just when Pennsylvania’s increased transportation dollars are about to start flowing, some Allegheny County Council members have hijacked the county’s capital budget, which has been used to leverage shares of that state money.

If council doesn’t fix the problem when it meets on Tuesday, $50 million of maintenance and construction projects for county roads, bridges, buildings and parks could be jeopardized. The county can’t move forward on any of the 107 items in the capital budget until the funding is in place.

Before he was deposed as council’s budget chairman, Bill Robinson created this problem.

He wanted to include $500,000 for the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, which is in foreclosure. When it became clear the idea didn’t have enough support on council, he pulled his budget from consideration. Five other members — Jim Burn, Barbara Daly Danko, Matt Drozd, Amanda Green-Hawkins and Heather Heidelbaugh — joined him in voting to prevent a budget without the August Wilson center funding from being considered.

For the first time in council’s 14-year history, it had failed to adopt its capital budget on time. That kind of selfish thinking has led to government shutdowns on the federal level, and it’s not what county taxpayers have come to expect locally.

Because of the intricacies of county rules, a simple majority of eight of the 15 members is all that will be necessary to enact the capital budget next week. That should get the county’s plan back on track, and teach council members something they should have already understood — majority rules.

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