Harrisburg’s City Council has delayed a vote on overriding mayor Linda Thompson’s veto of the $54.3 million annual budget, citing a law that requires a three-day waiting period after the veto.
The council, however, will meet again Thursday. “We certainly will have the five votes for the override,” Council President Wanda Williams said Tuesday night.
Five of seven votes are necessary to override the budget. David Unkovic, whom Gov. Tom Corbett appointed as Harrisburg’s receiver, has not commented on the budget process. He will issue his report on the city’s debt crisis by Feb. 6.
State capital Harrisburg is about $310 million in debt due to cost overruns to its incinerator retrofit, and according to court documents, has skipped about $50 million in incinerator bond payments.
A federal judge in November nullified the council’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, a ruling now under appeal.
Last month, the council voted to cut $1.2 million from Thompson’s proposed $56.5 million budget. The mayor vetoed it Monday, calling the cuts spiteful and politically motivated. “Over the course of the last year, City Council, not the state, the legislature or the governor, nor Act 47 is the cause of its own dysfunction,” Thompson said.
Cut from the budget were salaries for Thompson’s director of communications and senior advisor, Robert Philbin, and ombudsman Bryan Wade. According to Thompson, both are volunteering their work for now.
“We don’t need an ombudsman, we need a policeman. We don’t need a spokesman, we need a firefighter,” Koplinski said.
Williams, Brad Koplinski, Susan Brown-Wilson and Eugenia Smith, all of whom have voted against Thompson on proposed state recovery plans, are said to favor the override, as is new member Sandra Reid.
Also on the council are Patty Kim and Kelly Summerford. “I wish the mayor and City Council would make a New Year’s resolution to stop bashing each other. It gets tiring,” said Kim, the council’s vice president.
Three times last year, the council rejected a proposed workout plan under the state-sponsored Act 47 program for distressed communities. Thompson backed all three versions of the plan.
The Harrisburg Authority, the public-works agency that operates the incinerator, is in federal court, along with Dauphin County, disputing a $25 million financing deal with CIT Group of New York that they say wasn’t properly approved.
The Harrisburg Authority, which is scheduled to meet Jan. 25, is conducting its own forensic audit of the incinerator bond deals.