House GOP Deals Setback to Philly Tax Bill

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter took to the public on the eve of the cigarette tax vote. The tax could help fund Philly public schools this fall.

City officials were dealt a setback last Tuesday night in their efforts to fast-track legislation to authorize the tax to help its public schools open this fall. The vote is set for this Tuesday.

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.

Proponents stressed that the issue is whether to authorize the city to impose a tax, not the tax itself.

"We are not asking the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for one dime," said Mayor Michael Nutter, who has lobbied for the legislation at the Capitol this week.

On Sunday, Gov. Tom Corbett and House GOP leaders had said they would support the proposal if Philadelphia Democrats agreed to back Republican-crafted pension legislation.

Democrats oppose the pension bill, which they blocked in a procedural floor vote earlier Tuesday with the help of 15 Republicans.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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