October 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Murphy pleads for millions from state

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Special Report: Paraguay RPCV Tom Murphy, Mayor of Pittsburgh: June 26, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Tom Murphy (Paraguay) : October 29, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Murphy pleads for millions from state

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Murphy pleads for millions from state

Murphy pleads for millions from state

Relations between Mr. Murphy and state officials are strained. Last month the mayor said legislators avoid tough decisions, and Thursday he questioned whether the state's process of choosing slot parlor owners may be tainted by politics. Thomas Murphy, Jr., Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, PA , served as a Peace Corps Volunteers in Paraguay in the 1970's.

Murphy pleads for millions from state

Murphy pleads for millions from state
Mayor faults state for part of deficit

Saturday, October 29, 2005
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

His last year in office ticking away, his efforts to right the city's finances threatened, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy has made a last-ditch plea to Gov. Ed Rendell.

Mayor Tom Murphy
In a letter to the governor dated Thursday, Mr. Murphy boasted of slashing the city's workforce, reining in Fire Bureau and vehicle maintenance costs and being "on pace to end 2005 with as much as a $9.6 million surplus."

That result and future budgets are threatened by revenue problems stemming from state decisions, the letter indicated.

"It is a misstatement and a distortion of the truth to try to blame the city of Pittsburgh's financial problems on the state," responded Kate Philips, Mr. Rendell's spokeswoman.

The mayor wrote that the Rendell administration "required" the city to budget for $6 million a year in contributions from nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit groups have instead pledged around $4.4 million a year for three years.

He urged Mr. Rendell to push nonprofit groups to give more, and asked for the creation of a panel to study the impact of nonprofit growth on municipalities.

State overseers "required" the city to bet on $3.8 million in gambling-related funds next year and more thereafter, the letter said. The timetable for slot gambling's start has been pushed back.

Mr. Murphy asked Mr. Rendell to agree to "pre-funding" Pittsburgh's anticipated slots revenue.

Ms. Philips said the Rendell administration provided projections of nonprofit contributions and slots revenue -- not guarantees. "The commonwealth can't serve as a bank and be handing out money" to cities with budgetary shortfalls, she said.

A state Senate proposal would delay collection of the $52-per-worker Emergency and Municipal Services tax, costing the city around $4 million next year, the mayor wrote. He asked Rendell to threaten to veto that bill if it is not changed.

Ms. Philips said the governor hasn't been involved in crafting that bill, and wouldn't decide whether to veto it unless it passes the General Assembly.

A state-promised $3.5 million reimbursement for security-related costs hasn't been paid, the mayor added. Rendell-appointed fiscal recovery team co-leader James Roberts said the state is still working on it.

"Only you have the power to ensure that Pittsburgh is made whole in 2006 for the gambling revenues that your administration promised Pittsburgh," Mr. Murphy wrote. "Only you have the power to intervene in our discussion with the nonprofit community and ensure their full, willing participation in the city's financial recovery.

"And only you have the power to ensure that changes to the Emergency and Municipal Services tax are constructed to ensure that municipalities across the commonwealth do not face a serious financial shortfall in 2006."

Mr. Rendell's office said the state has done it's part to help the city.

"If it weren't for the intervention of the Rendell administration, the city of Pittsburgh would be bankrupt today," said Ms. Philips, citing the governor's support last year for new city taxes.

City Council Finance Chair Doug Shields, a frequent critic of the mayor, said he agreed with the letter.

"Our partners in Harrisburg have not come up with sufficient revenue," he said.

He predicted that the consequences of a shortfall would be dire. "We're not going to be able to have enough bodies here to run the machinery of government."

Relations between Mr. Murphy and state officials are strained. Last month the mayor said legislators avoid tough decisions, and Thursday he questioned whether the state's process of choosing slot parlor owners may be tainted by politics.

(Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.)

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Story Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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