Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter joins elected officials here against state budget

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Proposed state cuts to social service budgets could result in an additional 200 homeless people on the streets of Philadelphia, that city's mayor warned Thursday.

Seeking to head off that consequence, Mayor Michael Nutter joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in a push to encourage legislators to make changes in the $27.1 billion state budget proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Planned reductions in state contributions toward human services, economic development and transportation programs would blow holes in their budgets, the three elected leaders said during a joint news conference in Pittsburgh. The result would harm the quality of life in Pennsylvania's two most populous counties, they said. "We cannot balance the commonwealth's budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people," Mr. Nutter said.

The state Legislature is required to approve the 2012-13 spending plan by June 30. A spokeswoman for Mr. Corbett has said that local governments, like the state, must learn to live within their means.

The two mayors and county executive are Democrats, while the governor and the majority of the state Legislature are Republicans who have pledged not to impose new taxes or raise existing ones.

"We're not asking for more money," Mr. Nutter said. "We are asking not to get less." He quoted the political axiom: "There are no Democratic or Republican potholes."

Allegheny County's efforts to secure a dedicated source of funding for mass transit, road construction and bridge repairs have the support of people across the political spectrum, Mr. Fitzgerald said. The Allegheny Conference, an organization of business leaders, and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce had joined with bus and light-rail riders to lobby for more state help for transportation, he said.

Mr. Ravenstahl said that Mr. Corbett and the Legislature could not ignore demographics. Allegheny County, with 1.3 million people, and Philadelphia, with 1.5 million, represent almost one-fourth of the state's population, he said.

Mr. Nutter said relations between Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg are not as polarized as they are in Washington. "Congress could not agree on the time of day if members were standing in front of an atomic clock," he joked.

All three officials said they traveled regularly to Harrisburg to meet with legislators and members of the Corbett administration and had often gotten help with local initiatives. Mr. Corbett, for example, had played a critical role in persuading Shell Oil Co. to locate a new petrochemical "cracking" plant in Beaver County, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The county executive said he remained hopeful that the governor and state legislators ultimately would assist the Port Authority with additional funding. The transit agency has warned that it will have to trim service by 35 percent in September to close a $64 million budget gap.

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Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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