Philly's One Step Closer to Financial Recovery

The Pennsylvania Senate gave final approval to a bill to make available hundreds of millions of dollars for financially-strapped Philadelphia while overhauling state laws that govern municipal pension funds.

The Senate voted 38-9 on Wednesday to approve the measure. Now the House needs to do the same.

The Senate bill goes much further than the House version of the bill, which dealt exclusively with Philadelphia's problems. Both bills give the city what its leaders want most  -- the authority to temporarily increase the sales tax rate and defer pension contributions to avoid the layoffs of about 3,000 employees.

"I am pleased that House Bill 1828 was passed by the Senate today with overwhelming bi-partisan support," said Mayor Michael Nutter in a statement.

"We are one step closer to financial recovery. I hope that the House returns as soon as possible to concur with the legislation passed by the Senate and to provide Philadelphia with the tools that we need to fix our own budget deficit."

Nutter applauded the progress and also stressed that there is still work to be done.

"If approved by the House these dollars will maintain the financial health of the City and mean that we will avoid the devastating consequences of implementing Plan C."

Gov. Ed Rendell urged the House to move quickly in acting on the legislation and said he would be willing to sign the Senate version. A vote in the House would come next week at the earliest.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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