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Philadelphia Bracing For Thousands Of Possible Layoffs

Philadelphia Bracing For Thousands Of Possible Layoffs

The Associated Press via YellowBrix

September 17, 2009

Layoff notices were set to go out Friday to nearly 3,000 city workers, including hundreds of police officers and firefighters, as the cash-strapped city struggles to close a massive budget gap.

Mayor Michael Nutter said the layoffs, which are effective Oct. 2, would mark the largest ever reduction in the city’s work force. The cuts would include 739 police officers and 120 firefighters, as well as hundreds of other positions across city government.

“I do not want to take this action. It is one of the most painful things that any mayor could possibly do, and I will fight to make sure that these layoffs do not come to pass,” Nutter, a first-term Democrat, said in a taped address to workers Thursday. "But without approval of this legislation we will quite simply have no choice.

The city has been lobbying the state Legislature to approve a temporary sales tax increase in Philadelphia and allow changes to how the city makes its pension payments; Nutter says those moves would generate and save $700 million, preventing the mass layoffs.

State legislators have not made a final decision on those requests. But state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said there was a chance the Senate could vote on them Thursday and send the bill to Gov. Ed Rendell’s desk.

City officials say some of the layoffs could be rescinded if the state approves their requests. The city has more than 20,000 workers.

Legislators in Harrisburg have been reviewing the bill for weeks, and city officials have traveled almost daily to the state Capitol to lobby for support.

But some critics on Thursday accused the mayor of using scare tactics, predicting that the needed aid would be coming from Harrisburg.

“You can’t lay off 740 cops in the city because you’re not going to have anybody on the street,” said John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. “You lay off one police officer in the city and you’re going to have major problems with the FOP.”

Councilman Bill Green said that the massive layoffs would not be workable and that the plan would not be approved by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperating Authority, an independent body that must review the city’s budget.

Even though the mayor has the authority to lay off workers, Green said, the layoff notices were part of a “Chicken Little scenario” that will likely be avoided.

“I don’t think it means anything,” Green said. “I think we’re unnecessarily creating drama.”

Nutter denied using scare tactics and said he was only speaking the truth.

“Unfortunately, these are not tactics,” he said outside City Hall. “We are fighting for the future of this city.”

image credit flickr

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