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Letters: Taking Exception

City budget includes tax cuts and key investments

The editorial "The easy way out" (Inquirer, May 16), about the recent budget agreement, reminds me of Mike Schmidt's old phrase, "The thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day." Despite the tough economy, our budget includes unprecedented tax reductions and key investments. The editorial grumbles about insufficient sacrifice, but doesn't say who or what should be sacrificed.

First, let's dispel the notion that our budget is bloated. As the editorial noted, the budget increase was 2.4 percent. If you consider that increase includes investments The Inquirer itself calls critical - helping put 400 more police on the streets, providing the largest single-year increase for the community college, attacking the long waiting times at health centers, funding crucial affordable housing, and increasing Fairmount Park's budget - that 2.4 percent seems even less like the "easy way out."

Second, we are taking steps to reduce the costs of running city government. Since our first week in office, we have worked to reduce costs without impacting services, resulting in $10 million in reduced expenditures and increased revenues in this budget alone. We have begun the PhillyStat process to continuously review each department's operations. We will smartly reduce costs to give the people who live and work in Philadelphia the effective and efficient government they deserve.

Finally, the editorial suggests we are in full-scale retreat from tax reductions. Not true. Under this budget and our five-year plan, the resident wage-tax rate will drop below 4 percent for the first time in more than 30 years, the gross-receipts portion of the business-privilege tax will be eliminated within a decade, and, for the first time ever, the net income portion of the business privilege tax will be decreased. These cuts are slightly slower than in the original version of our plan, but they represent substantial progress toward making the city more competitive.

Rather than calling for cuts that would further erode the quality of life in our city, The Inquirer could have noted that my administration and City Council crafted a balanced budget that provides significant tax reductions and invests in our shared priorities. That's not easy!

Mayor Michael Nutter