Mayors Ask Congress to Enact Deficit Plan that Keeps Cities Strong

Federal deficit reduction must include significant new revenue so that Pennsylvania cities, their residents and local economies can thrive again.

This was a critical point made by several Pennsylvania mayors during a conference call with reporters this week focused on what is at stake for cities in a federal deficit plan. The call was organized by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

"Long-term deficit reduction is an important priority and we certainly applaud our federal lawmakers for taking on this issue," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. "But unless the budget deal includes significant new revenue, it will result in an enormous cost shift to Pennsylvania cities, municipalities and school districts. These are costs we cannot absorb. Our economies are still fragile; our hardworking families will suffer." 

Mayor Nutter explained that nearly one-third of non-defense federal discretionary spending goes to state and local governments to support public safety, housing funding, Title 1, special education and early childhood programs. If Congress makes further deep cuts to these and other services without new revenues, local residents across Pennsylvania will pay the price. 

The Mayors voiced support for a balanced approach to deficit reduction similar to the proposal put forth by President Obama. 

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said that many cities have been hanging by a thread in the wake of the Great Recession, and that a deficit plan relying too heavily on cuts could be the final straw for some. 

"We've been to the cliff; we've looked over the cliff; some of us have made it to the other side; some cities are just hanging onto the edge of that cliff," Mayor Pawlowski said. "As more of these cuts continue to pound us, you are going to see city after city after city fall off it.  I think this is going to have a much greater economic impact across the board, not just across Pennsylvania but across the United States." 

York Mayor Kim Bracey said deep federal cuts coming on the heels of state cuts to education and local services would have a "devastating impact" on cities across the state.  

"The reductions by our commonwealth have already forced our cities and school districts to raise local taxes and reduce all sorts of services," she said.  

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer said his city has already sustained cuts to state and federal funding for economic development and job creation, and that more of the same is no recipe for economic success. 

"The fact remains: the only way you are going to turn cities around is through economic development, and if we don't do what the President is asking for and create those new revenues, we're going to be in dire straits," he said. 

Mayor Pawlowski echoed that point: "We just can't cut our way back to prosperity. There have to be reasonable cuts accompanied with reasonable revenue enhancements to get our fiscal house back in order."  

Let's hope Congress takes notice as more mayors across the state and nation make their case for deficit reduction that is not balanced on the backs of cities and middle-class families.

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