Philly Schools Held Hostage to Pension Vote
We told you Friday that Philly Democrats were being offered a choice — they could get school funding, but only if they tossed their labor union allies under the bus, either with a liquor privatization vote or support for a bill that will overhaul pensions for state workers. Over the weekend, the trade crystalized: Without support for the pension vote, Philly Dems can forget ed funding help.
Governor Corbett says Democratic state lawmakers should pony up votes to pass a public pension overhaul bill if they want Philadelphia to be allowed to hike a tax on cigarettes for schools funding.
“This is one where the Philadelphia delegation has the ability to help the school district of Philadelphia far more than any one delegation can,” Corbett said during an impromptu press conference he held in his office Sunday.
“There aren’t quite enough votes on the Republican side,” Corbett said, referring to the pension benefits overhaul bill. He urged the Democratic Philadelphia delegation “to deal and give” their votes to the proposal in return for the cigarette tax authorization. “It’s in their hands,” Corbett said.
“I’m giving them the option to help their school district,” he added.
A senior Senate Democrat said Corbett was wasting his time, declaring pension reform “done” in both the House and Senate.
“The governor is trying to regurgitate a program that he couldn’t get passed with Republican majorities in the House and Senate,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s over.”
Hughes accused Corbett of playing politics with the city’s public school students as he pursued his pension reform program.
Meanwhile, Nutter and Hite sounded the alarm that without additional funding, class size in the city’s 202 schools would jump to 41 students and 1,300 teachers would be laid off.
The $2-per-pack hike to the cigarette tax – approved by Philadelphia City Council but needing legislative authorization – would bring in an estimated $80 million, which Hite and Nutter say would bring the city close enough to plugging the hole in the $2.6 billion school budget.
And that presumes approval of the extra $39 million that Corbett proposed for the city in his February budget address, but which had not been finalized by late Sunday.