PHILADELPHIA, May 22, 2014 — State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams today released a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett urging him to support his proposal to deliver new revenue to the School District of Philadelphia with a cigarette tax.
A copy of Sen. Williams’ letter is below:
May 21, 2014
The Honorable Tom Corbett
Governor of Pennsylvania
Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Dear Governor Corbett,
I am writing to strongly urge you to support a measure that would considerably address the pending fiscal problems plaguing the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). It is our responsibility as statewide public officials to provide our local school districts with not only enough funding to educate our school children in one given year, but also with the authority to provide long-term additional support at a local level. This is particularly important in the City of Philadelphia, where the school district supports more students than any other district in the Commonwealth. For fiscal year 2014 alone, the SDP is facing a budget deficit of $18 million, a shortfall that is expected to increase to at least $80 million by fiscal year 2015. I have proposed cigarette tax legislation which is projected to contribute $83 million in its first year of implementation towards the SDP operating budget and the long-term maintenance of public education in Philadelphia.
In 2013 I introduced SB 944, a bill that if enacted would allow the City to impose a tax of $2 per pack of cigarettes. All revenue would be directed towards the SDP. SB 944 was successfully voted out of the Senate Finance Committee last June, and is currently pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This legislation has the support of the Mayor’s office and the City Council, and the City is once more calling for the General Assembly to pass my bill. In fact, the City Council adopted the necessary local ordinance to allow the City to enact the cigarette tax last June in support of SB 944.
Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your assistance in fiscal year 2013 through the release of the one-time appropriation of $45 million to the SDP in accordance with Act 71 of 2013. As a result, the SDP was able to open its school doors last fall and the School Reform Commission made great strides in implementing swift reforms to provide for academic improvement, support operational control, and employ measures for greater financial stability. While these reforms have contributed to the SDP’s continued efforts in the last three years to further reduce district costs and to provide for increased local support, the Act 71 funding was a one-time state grant only. Looking forward, we must enable the City and SDP to provide long-term, ongoing local funding to its public education system in future fiscal years.
SB 944 would give the City a much-needed tool to alleviate a significant portion of the SDP deficit as well as potential budget shortfalls in future fiscal years. Consequently, I strongly urge you to support this measure and to encourage immediate movement through the General Assembly in June.
Anthony H. Williams
State Senator – 8th District
CC: Mayor Michael Nutter
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke
State Senator Shirley M. Kitchen, Chairwoman – Philadelphia Delegation
State Representative Cherelle L. Parker, Chairwoman – Philadelphia Delegation