Philadelphia, July 31, 2014 – In response to the Pennsylvania State House of Representative’s decision to not return to Harrisburg to vote on HB 1177, Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Council President Darrell L. Clarke released the following statement:
“As we have stated repeatedly over the last year, the Cigarette Tax is a critically important part of a multi-pronged solution to support the children of Philadelphia and our public schools for the next school year and for years to come. The news that the House will not return next week to pass HB 1177 is devastating to us. Superintendent Dr. William Hite has been clear that without the new revenue from the Philadelphia Cigarette Tax to fill the now $81 million budget gap, he could not open schools on time. We support Dr. Hite’s belief that ensuring schools are safe and adequately staffed is more important than opening schools as planned on September 8th.
“We appreciate the House’s well-intentioned idea of having the City advance money to the District to help address the District’s short-term cash flow needs. However, this only advances money already included in the District’s budget and does nothing to address the substantial budget gap that the funds generated by the Philadelphia Cigarette Tax would help close. Superintendent Hite has requested certainty on the Philadelphia Cigarette Tax by August 15 in order to know that the District has the resources it needs to operate schools safely this year. For all of those reasons, we hope that the legislature will reconsider today’s decision and choose to come back to Harrisburg by August 15 and pass HB 1177.
“We remain grateful to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the State Senate for demonstrating that the education of Philadelphia’s youth is important for the future of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by passing versions of the Cigarette Tax earlier this month. The City of Philadelphia requests that state lawmakers take action once again for the sake of our school children.”