House Republicans are refusing to amend a state budget bill to include authorization for a Philly cigarette tax that would help City Hall make up the shortfall in the city’s school budget. Mayor Nutter said Tuesday night’s result means Philly schools must prepare for layoffs.
Majority Republicans on the House Rules Committee voted against putting the authorization in a companion bill to the state budget bill that lawmakers passed Monday. Democrats voted unanimously in favor of it.
Still, sympathetic Republicans said they would try to push through separate legislation that would authorize the city to impose a $2 per-pack sales tax to provide $83 million to fill a deficit. Officials say another round of layoffs would leave Pennsylvania’s largest school district ill-equipped to educate children and possibly prevent schools from opening on time.
In striking down the authorization to allow Philadelphia to have a local cigarette tax, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, argued that the tax authorization was not germaine to the budget-related bill.
He argued that adding that language could put the entire fiscal code bill in jeopardy. But he pledged to have House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, take the lead on working to grant the city the tax authorization in a separate bill. However, when pressed, Turzai refused to say how soon that bill might receive a vote.
The paper says: “Afterward, Nutter said the committee’s decision was disappointing and baffling and will force the district and the School Reform Commission that runs it to begin making preparations to lay off staff, which, in turn, will hurt the education students receive.”