Pennsylvania moves closer to Harrisburg takeover

    The Pennsylvania Senate has voted in favor of a bill that would allow a state takeover of Harrisburg.

    Only House approval stands between the proposal and the governor’s signature.

    Gov. Tom Corbett has said he would sign the bill to put Harrisburg and certain other cities under the watch of court-appointed managers who will prescribe a fiscal-recovery plan.

    Sen. Jeffrey Piccola defends the bill from complaints it falls short of addressing structural dysfunction in Harrisburg and other similarly debt-ridden cities. Piccola, who in large part wrote the proposal, said Tuesday it’s meant to hold off a Harrisburg bankruptcy at all costs, not solve the problems of cities across the state.

    “We do not have the time necessary to, in our leisure, look at these problems and devise solutions to these problems that are sometimes very big and very general,” he said.

    Sen. John Blake, however, said the bill is an overreach.

    “This legislation is meant to protect monied interests at the expense of local taxpayers under the guise of protecting public safety. I think it is an overreach of state government powers,” Blake said. “I think that we should respect the elected leadership of our cities and we should allow them the opportunity to represent the best interests of their people.”

    In weeks past, Harrisburg city officials have been unable to agree on a fiscal recovery plan, and four members of the city council have filed for bankruptcy without the consent of the mayor.

    The city is more than $300 million in debt, largely because of a failed retrofit of its trash incinerator.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.