January 13, 2012 / 4:30 AM / 8 years ago

Harrisburg city council overrides mayor's budget veto

HARRISBURG, Pa (Reuters) - The city council of the Pennsylvania state capital city of Harrisburg voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to override Mayor Linda Thompson’s veto of a proposed $53.4 million budget.

A welcome marker is seen in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Shanken

The override, which was approved 6-1, means the council’s 2012 budget becomes the fiscal blueprint for the financially troubled city until state-appointed receiver David Unkovic submits his spending plan next month.

The override also means the mayor’s spokesman, Bob Philbin, and her ombudsman, Bryan Wade, will lose their jobs, and 10 vacant positions will go unfilled.

Philbin was in his office following the city council’s vote, but a secretary for the mayor’s office said he would not comment about the override and elimination of his position until Friday.

When she announced her veto on Monday, the mayor said she believed the council’s actions were “politically motivated” and the cuts it proposed, including the elimination of Philbin and Wade, were “irresponsible, reckless and unacceptable.”

Governor Tom Corbett appointed Unkovic as Harrisburg’s receiver last year primarily to help the city find a way to escape a $317 million debt that accumulated as the city repaired and retrofitted its municipal incinerator.

However, as its receiver, Unkovic has the sole discretion on how tax revenue will be spent. He will unveil that plan on February 6 in Commonwealth Court.

The city council has talked about re-opening the budget to eliminate other government jobs. But its president, Wanda Williams, said that would not happen until after January 18, when Unkovic is scheduled to conduct a public forum to “discuss Harrisburg’s financial issues.”

Williams said the council is not playing tit-for-tat with the mayor knowing that Unkovic will settle the budget battle.

“Regardless of whether we have a receiver or not, we still would look at the budget a second time. If there are any additional cuts we can make or anything we could increase, we certainly will do that,” she said.

Unkovic did not attend Thursday’s city council vote to override the mayor’s veto, but Williams and other council members say they have been talking to him about their plans.

In another example of the many twists seen in this city’s tangled financial escapade, City Councilman Brad Koplinski, who voted against the budget the mayor vetoed, voted to override her veto on Thursday evening.

“I voted for the override tonight because our people need to get paid, they need some stability, and (we) want to get that process moving,” Koplinski said.

Editing By Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan

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