Bill would let Council control 10 percent of budget
City Council would have the authority to set spending priorities for up to 10 percent of city spending, if voters approve a proposal introduced in Council Thursday by First District Councilman Mark Squilla.
The city charter gives the mayor’s office the exclusive power to draw up budgets, which are then approved by Council, the body that holds the authority to raise revenue.
Squilla would like Council to have more power when it comes to spending.
“It will give Council a little more leverage,” he said. “A lot of times people say, ‘Go and see your Council member and see if they can get any more money for you.’ Well, we can try, but we really have no authority to do that. This will give us the ability to at least pinpoint a couple of dollars to specific causes.”
The mayor’s office declined to comment.
“We haven’t seen it yet,” said spokesman Mark McDonald. “So, I really can’t comment other than to say that if and when these bills get scheduled for hearing, we would offer testimony.”
He declined to elaborate further.
The concept requires a change to the city charter, which can only be granted by voters in a referendum. Squilla told reporters that he would like to see a question put on the ballot next May.
“Hopefully, it would be enacted before the next budget,” he said. “It would go to voters and they would have to decide, in the end, if they think they want Council to have authority of up to 10 percent the budget to be able to manipulate that money.”
His proposal would apply to both the operating and capital budget. Had it been in place during the last budget cycle, Council would have had the ability to independently spend about $300 million.
Squilla’s proposal came three weeks after Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed another Squilla proposal that would have created a $4 surcharge on parking tickets — giving $2 to the Philadelphia Parking Authority and $2 to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Councilman said his new bill was unrelated to the veto, but admitted that he would like to have seen Parks and Recreation get more money this year.
“It’s not about throwing it back. It’s about working as a team,” Squilla said. “We get to suggest certain things to the administration, but there is never really that give and take where we get to say where we need money.”
In other news, Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting a recent Commonwealth Court decision that found Act 13 — the state law that gives state government, not municipalities, authority of natural gas wells and related infrastructure.
The vote came after a number of residents asked for Council’s support.
“This is a very important issue,” said Shannon Pendleton, of Delaware Riverkeepers. “We have families and communities across the commonwealth who are being sacrificed for shale gas drilling.”