Not all glowing reviews for new taxes to cover Philly public schools cash request

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter wants to increase the “liquor by the drink” tax and impose a new city cigarette tax.

The moves are the core of his plan to come up with more than $90 million in new money for the Philadelphia School District.

It’s far from a done deal.

“All three are home runs in Harrisburg,” declared state Sen. Hardy Williams, D-Philadelphia, who says he believes Nutter’s plan will get the necessary support in the Legislature. The plan also calls for cracking down on tax deadbeats, as well as raising the drink tax and imposing a new cigarette tax.

Altogether, the plan will raise more than $90 million for the city schools, Nutter said.

City Council President Darrell Clarke isn’t so confident. He’s concerned that state officials might authorize the tax hikes and then think Harrisburg doesn’t have to provide any money directly.

“At the end of the day, there continues to be this underlying issue, the ‘gorilla in the room,'” he said Wednesday. “Where are the additional dollars that will come from the state of Pennsylvania?”

Councilman Jim Kenney doesn’t believe imposing a new $2 per pack tax on cigarettes will be done quickly or easily.

“I’m not a fan of the cigarette industry, but I know, like all industries that have large amounts of lobbyists and a keen interest in not being taxed anymore I suspect, they are going to fight it,” he said.

A year ago, Philadelphia put additional money into the schools, and the state took funding away, said Councilman Dennis O’Brien.

“We have to own what is ours, but they have to own what they did to us last year,” O’Brien said. “The reality is it has to be a combination of additional funds and additional vehicles that we can partner up and grow our way to a better solution for these kids.”

Bills can be introduced in council, but without the state approving enabling legislation, nothing can be done.

To make matters more challenging, action in Harrisburg and the city budget must be complete before the end of June.

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