Mayor Nutter may save the day with new taxes to close the Philadelphia School District's budget deficit, but it will cost him.
Nutter will surely be nailed politically for raising taxes in three of the four years of his first term.
In the short-term, Nutter's call to tax sugar-sweetened beverages could push former Mayor John Street to challenge him in an independent run for mayor. Street was a vocal opponent of a similar soda tax proposed by Nutter last year.
In the long-term, candidates seeking to follow Nutter as mayor in 2015 if he wins a second term this year will probably position themselves as public servants who hold the line on taxes.
It's a tough spot. Nutter feels compelled to rescue an unpopular district, maligned for its imperious management style.
The mayor yesterday brushed off questions about a potential challenge from Street.
Street, who on Wednesday called the beverage taxes and a proposal to increase on-street parking rates in Center City and University City as "the worst option" and "typical of the mayor," did not respond yesterday to requests for comment.
Sam Katz, chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and friend of Street, said he thinks the former mayor is ready to get into the Nov. 8 general election.
Katz lost mayoral races to Street in 1999 and 2003 before the two men forged a friendship.
Councilman Jim Kenney said he doesn't think Street could beat Nutter in a race for mayor but could be "more formidable" as an independent candidate for a City Council at-large seat.
Street has said he's considering both a run for mayor and Council. He must decide by Aug. 1, the deadline to get on the ballot.
Councilman Bill Green, Nutter's most frequent critic in City Hall, yesterday questioned his decision to delay action on School District funding until after the May 17 primary election.
"There was an opportunity to involve Philadelphians on discussions, to say: 'I'm going to ask for more money for the school district,' " said Green, a likely candidate for mayor in 2015. "They failed to have that discussion."
Nutter won 76 percent of the primary vote against Street's brother, former state legislator and ex-con T. Milton Street Sr., who won 24 percent.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, another potential candidate for mayor in 2015, delivered a well-timed audit this week that called for more city oversight of the school district's finances.
No matter what happens with Nutter's efforts on the school district budget, his strained relations with Council continue. It now appears Nutter's budget ideas need two years to marinate before they pass in Council.
Two years ago, Nutter proposed a property-tax increase to help close a city budget gap. Council balked and compromised instead on a sales-tax increase.
Last year, Nutter proposed new taxes on trash collection and sugar-sweetened beverages. Council balked and instead approved a two-year property tax increase.
Now Nutter is back with the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.