Philly City Council Delays Liquor Tax Hike Vote

Philadelphia City Council members decided not to vote Wednesday on legislation that would increase the city liquor tax.

Mayor Michael Nutter proposed the measure which would increase the liquor tax from ten to 15 percent in an effort to generate $95 million dollars for the city’s cash-strapped school district.

The Philadelphia School District announced last week that approximately 3,800 employees were being laid off. Without additional funding to fill a $304 million budget deficit, the district will be forced to implement its “doomsday budget” which would eliminate 3,783 jobs -- including 1,202 aides, 676 teachers, 307 secretaries, and 283 counselors.

Dozens of parents and teachers were at the meeting urging council members to pass the legislation.


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“We’re tired,” said parent Hilary Bonata. “This city needs decent schools.”

Parents and students in the Philadelphia School District also took their fight to Harrisburg Wednesday to ask state lawmakers to support increased funding for the city’s public schools.

About 4,000 letters handwritten by students were presented to lawmakers in an effort to keep music and art programs, also on the chopping block, from being cut.

Nutter is also proposing increases in the city cigarette tax. The new $2-per-pack tax would generate an additional $45 million for the district.

There is no word on when council will pass a final hike vote on both liquor and cigarettes, according to City Council president Darryl Clarke.

"People can continue to ask us about what we're going to do here locally the reality is until it happens on the state level it doesn't matter,” said Clarke.

On Tuesday, Nutter made a surprise visit to the Pennsylvania's House Appropriations Committee to discuss the city schools' financial woes and then stayed to observe the panel's meeting.

The mayor wants the state to put up an additional $120 million next year to help close a budget gap. The city is also lobbying for bills to allow the city to increase a liquor-by-the-drink from ten to 15 percent and levy a local cigarette tax.

Last week, the school district issued layoff notices to thousands of employees.

Leaders of the Republican majority that controls the Legislature say they haven't closed the door on additional aid, but they're stressing that the state's finances are tight and other school districts also are struggling.

Teachers who attended Wednesday’s council meeting say they will go to Harrisburg on June 25.

The state budget is due on June 30.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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