City budget negotiations dragged on without resolution again Friday, with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council failing to reach consensus on spending plans and tax cut proposals for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
A Council committee on Friday amended and advanced the city’s $9.47 billion six-year capital budget, which details large infrastructure and information technology projects funded through borrowing. But an agreement remained elusive on how to reshape Kenney’s proposed $5.18 billion operating budget for next year and several related tax plans.
The capital budget amendments were approved by the Committee of the Whole, which includes all 17 Council members. They add $500,000 for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, $1.5 million for the Philadelphia Zoo, and $2 million for the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., which operates Penn’s Landing.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke had hoped to reach a final budget deal as early as Tuesday, but disagreements between Kenney and lawmakers have persisted over funding for antiviolence programs, how to spend federal stimulus aid, and proposed cuts to wage, business, and parking taxes.
Councilmember Derek Green said many groups are lobbying lawmakers for a slice of the city’s $1.4 billion in federal pandemic relief funding, making it harder for any one proposal to gain the nine votes needed or — for measures opposed by Kenney — the 12 votes needed to override a veto.
“You’ve got a lot of different constituencies who are advocating for expenditures of dollars,” said Green, who chairs the Finance Committee. “It’s about arithmetic. You’ve got to get to nine, or sometimes 12.”
If it follows its usual rules, Council must reach agreement by its meeting next Thursday in order to pass the bills by the end of the month, when the current budget expires. Despite depressed tax revenues over the last year due to the pandemic, the city’s coffers have been buttressed by the federal funding, half of which was delivered in May and half of which will come in May 2022.
Kenney has proposed small reductions to the wage and business taxes, restoring funding to many departments that were cut last year, and borrowing $270 million for new capital project financing.
But lawmakers have their own ideas. Councilmember Allan Domb has proposed further cuts in taxes on workers and businesses, while Majority Leader Cherelle Parker is pushing a controversial parking tax cut. A trio of progressive members, meanwhile, oppose any new tax cuts.
Thirteen Council members signed a letter last weekend calling for $100 million in new spending on antiviolence programs after Kenney’s proposal included only $34 million.
Other members are demanding more money for the Free Library of Philadelphia, eviction prevention, afterschool programming, and other priorities.
Negotiations will continue over the weekend, and the Committee of the Whole will meet again Monday morning to consider the budget and tax legislation.