State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Philly cigarette tax rejected by House GOP

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 1, 2014 11:11 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

State House Republicans rebuffed an attempt to let Philadelphia impose a cigarette tax to help fund its city schools.

GOP leaders said Tuesday the $2-dollar-a-pack levy was not related to the bill Democrats were attempting to amend.

It was a setback for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who earlier that day had seen senators approve the tax authorization in a separate bill.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said about 1300 employees' jobs are on the line, as is the timely opening of city schools in September.

"School should start in about 70 days," Nutter said. "There are notice requirements in terms of layoffs, so many teachers, counselors, nurses, and other support staff unfortunately may start receiving layoff notices as a result of the inaction this evening."

Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would work with leadership on a tax authorization bill. But, as Nutter pointed out, Adolph gave no details about when the city could expect a vote.

"We have no timetable for that. We don't know when anything might happen," Nutter said. "I'm not sure what the House is getting ready to do even right now, when they will come back, when they will take up measures or, are they going to vote the fiscal code tonight. I mean, there's a lot of uncertainty here."

The Philadelphia school district faces a $93 million deficit that its superintendent says could be filled, partly, with revenue from the tax.

Nutter said under normal circumstances, such a large spending gap would have already resulted in layoff notices and school closure plans. He said he's not sure how long the district can hang on.

"There does come a point where I mean, unfortunately you have to pull a trigger," said Nutter.

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