HARRISBURG - Philadelphia has never had it easy in the state Capitol.
Whether it came to establishing citywide wireless, implementing its own smoking ban, or seeking approval to write its own gun laws, the city has had to kick and scream to get its way or has been outright smacked down by a legislature largely skeptical of its needs and intentions.
Now, Mayor Nutter's attempt to persuade lawmakers to approve two key funding proposals for the city's budget appears destined for a similar fortune.
Some chalk up the expected fight over the city budget to the normal politics of cutting deals in Harrisburg. But others believe the battle will be complicated and fueled by an entrenched anti-Philadelphia bias among lawmakers from other parts of the state who believe the city is rife with corruption and mismanagement.
"The city has never had an easy time in Harrisburg," said Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Phila.). "It's partly the normal give-and-take that you have in the political body here in Harrisburg. People aren't just going to give the city something without getting something back.
"But it's partly an anti-Philadelphia bias," she said. "I think it's intellectually easier to blame Philadelphia for its own problems."
Philadelphia political analyst Larry Ceisler, who grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, put it this way: "People in the rest of the state just can't relate to Philadelphia and its problems. It's crime-ridden, it's tainted with corruption. It's like you're raised with this bias from the cradle."
Nutter is asking the legislature to allow the city to raise the sales tax for five years to help close a $1.4 billion budget deficit. The mayor also wants approval for a two-year delay in making $230 million worth of annual contributions to the employee pension plan, as well as other changes to the accounting of the pension fund.
Republicans who control the state Senate have made clear their opposition to raising the sales tax, setting the stage for a tense next few weeks while the issue is negotiated in Harrisburg.
If the past is any guide, it will not be a simple process.
When former Mayor John F. Street was championing an initiative to establish a wireless network across the city, lawmakers tried to thwart it through legislation. A Republican House member pushed a bill that gave telecommunications companies the right to block municipally run wireless projects under certain circumstances.
Only after intense lobbying and a last-minute deal in late 2004 that Gov. Rendell helped negotiate did the city end up emerging victorious.
Then there was Philadelphia's citywide smoking ban. Lawmakers tried to the foil that, too, through legislation that would have repealed the city's ban and replaced it with a weaker statewide one that contained a long list of exceptions.
The city was eventually allowed last summer to maintain its stricter ban, but only after months of legislative brinksmanship and backroom negotiations.
"There is still the belief that Philly gets back a lot more than it gives, and that creates a natural animosity among some legislators," said G. Terry Madonna, analyst and pollster at Franklin and Marshall College.
On the issue of guns, at least, Philadelphia has long been frustrated by Capitol lawmakers. Legislation to allow the city to write its own, tougher gun laws has gone nowhere, despite concerted efforts over the last several years.
And most recently, some legislators have tried to hamper Philadelphia's ban on talking on handheld cell phones while driving. The House last month passed a bill that calls for withholding Philadelphia's portion of gas-tax revenue, as well as money for bridges and highways, if the city enacts its local ban.
Rep. Kathy Manderino (D., Phila.) said in an interview last week that what Philadelphia has experienced in Harrisburg comes down to a fundamental vigilance among some lawmakers that the city not receive special treatment or be allowed to strike out on its own whenever it wants, regardless of state law.
She said those legislators generally seek solutions that apply to the entire state, not just one part of it.
"It's a mindset of 'don't just help your area, help all of us,' " Manderino said.
Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson), said that when it came to fiscal matters, monetary requests from Philadelphia have almost always raised red flags in Harrisburg.
"Is there a bias about tossing money down Philadelphia's sewer?" he asked. "You read about pay-to-play contracts and pouring money into the city with no results. Philadelphia has a well-earned reputation."
Still, Miskin said, he believed Philadelphia "finally has a mayor that wants to get something done and is willing to forge relationships with legislative leaders. . . . That helps."
Will it be enough to lure Republicans to his side on the sales and pension issues? Nutter wants to have a resolution, one way or another, in time for the start of the July 1 fiscal year.
"The mayor is still going to have to make a compelling case," Miskin said.
Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), said Republicans in his caucus were keeping an open mind.
But, he warned last week, "it will be difficult to convince the General Assembly to make these changes."