Tuesday, April 8, 2008

City Adminstrators Weigh In at Act 47 Hearing

A hearing in front of the Act 47 oversight committee on whether Pittsburgh is ready to drop its financially distressed label drew varying responses from city administrators. Mayor Luke Ravehnstahl and Finance Director Scott Kunka expressed optimism, saying that through sacrafice and smart planning Pittsburgh had managed to amass over $70 million in savings. Ravenstahl shied away from the perception that he was asking for Act 47 to be lifted, rather he said he wanted the oversight committee to advise him and city officials on what path they needed to take to have the act removed.

City Council President Doug Shields spoke out in favor of having the act recinded, but he recognized that the city is not out of the woods yet. He said he believed the city has done all it can to gain firmer financial footing, and now places the onus on state legislators to help guide Pittsburgh and other urban centers out of their crippling deficits--a problem he calls "endemic."

Indeed, though most speakers testified that Pittsburgh had made economic strides,they also acknowledged that the legacy of debt from healthcare costs, pensions and worker compensation--$1.12 billion, including interest, is a burden the city cannot readily escape.

Both City Councilman William Peduto and City Controller Michael Lamb asked that Pittsburgh remain under Act 47, saying that more fiscal downturns are only years away. However, they also called for a new, refreshed plan, with clear directions that could guide the city out of debt. The last plan was drafted in 2004.

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