Earlier this week, a bunch of lawmakers complained about something happening, somewhere.
It was State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (this dude gets around!), Police Commissioner Ramsey and D.A. Seth Williams. And the topic of complaint: Ed Rendell’s budget cut to the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force.
The Inquirer reports Williams’ reaction: “This program doesn’t need to be cut…It needs to be replicated.”
The lowdown is this. The Gun Violence Task Force was formed in 2005 by Williams and retired, imprisoned State Sen. Fumo and supervised by Al Toczydlowski. The program was designed to stop the straw purchasing of guns and has been operating on $5 million a year, acting as an agency under the attorney general.
It has attained nearly 700 prosecutions and convictions, as well as allowed the city to give its ballistic lab a shot of adrenaline, according to PhlMetropolis. It’s also made Philadelphia a “national leader in actively pursuing gun-related cases.”
So yeah, it’s done good.
Rendell cut the task force’s budget in his 2010-2011 proposal from $5 million to $3 million. And it’s expected to lose another $30,000 next year. Why, you ask? Is Rendell suddenly pro-gun murder?
Not quite, says Gary Tuma, his press secretary.
“The governor thinks the Gun Violence Task Force has done great work in its several years of existence,” he told PhillyNow. “[The budget cuts are] in no way a reflection on the work that both state and law enforcement have done with that task force.”
Tuma told us that of the hundreds of Pennsylvania government programs in place, very few haven’t received budget cuts this year, though he did not name those few.
“The governor last year proposed a personal-income tax increase. It was a modest increase, would have cost the average working person in Pennsylvania about $5 a week and we could have avoided a lot of these painful cuts,” Tuma said. “But there was little public or legislative support for that proposal so the alternative was to cut almost everything. That was true of the Gun Violence Task Force just as it was true of hundreds and hundreds of other programs.”
We checked out Tuma’s story. Turns out, as you may recall, Rendell tried to raise the personal income tax rate 16 percent last summer, to 3.57 percent. Rendell said the tax would last three years until the state had a balanced budget, but earlier taxes that were raised and then rolled back – decades earlier – hadn’t come back to pre-tax levels and doubters were doubting it up.
Rendell’s idea was not well-received. So he decided to go back to the Legislature and get a budget directly from them – as if they’re so smart!
No tax increases, but lots of cuts.
This year, Rendell has learned his lesson and he’s basically replicated the idea the state Senate gave him last year – more cuts, no tax increases – in an attempt to balance the state budget. After all, it’s what the people want, and even Anthony Williams is campaigning for governor on lowering taxes.
It sucks that this program got cut, but before we go replicating it in other parts of the state, we need Williams and others to explain where they're going to get the money.
Infrastructure is going to hell. Everyone knows it; this report just makes it official. Also official: No one has any idea where to get the money to fix it.