In addition to continuing the fight on poverty begun in his last budget, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s second budget proposal focuses on jumpstarting Philadelphia’s economy.
The city currently ranks last in job creation among the country’s ten largest cities and half of all Philadelphia jobs are concentrated in Center City and University City. Accordingly, the job creating initiatives outlined in the budget are focused on spreading Philadelphia’s resurgence to all our neighborhoods and to assisting Philadelphians facing barriers to employment, including disconnected youth and returning citizens.
Specifically, the Mayor proposes to:
• Establish the Fair Chance Hiring Program, which will reimburse businesses up to $5,000 for each qualified new position filled by a person screened by the Office of Reintegration Services, up to a total of 100 jobs.
• Designate an additional $50,000 annually for the Guild Program within Mural Arts, which works with returning citizens and young adults on probation, in partnership with the City’s Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP) and the Prisons System.
• Fund a new workforce development strategy, titled City as Model Employer: the Apprenticeship Inclusion Program, that will create viable pathways to permanent employment for 200 seasonal/temporary City workers with barriers to employment.
• Launch Rebuild in mid-2017. Rebuild is a $500 million infrastructure program that will improve the city’s parks, rec centers and libraries. Rebuild sites will be chosen with the goals of restoring neighborhood equity and spurring economic growth. Rebuild will also host a pre-apprenticeship program to ensure the workforce on its projects reflect the surrounding neighborhood and to help diversify the trades. Additionally, Rebuild will create a business supports program, designed to help minority and women owned businesses build the necessary capacity to participate in Rebuild and future publicly funded projects.
• Allocate $90 million in capital dollars over six years to fund the transformation of Penn’s Landing. For decades, I-95 has been a barrier to economic growth, devaluing the City’s waterfront property because Center City was largely inaccessible from it. By reconnecting the city’s waterfront to its core, we will generate tremendous economic investment. This project is expected to create 230 jobs, just through the construction phase, and, by attracting new development and businesses, it will have a return of $1.6 billion in economic benefit to the city over the next 25 years.
The budget also seeks to make Philadelphia stronger economically across the board by continuing the city’s reduction of wage and business taxes, instituting pension reform that would move the pension fund from less than 50 percent funded to 80 percent funded in 13 years, and by making important investments in public transportation and public safety. Most notably among the later, the budget invests $174 million in new funds towards the reconstruction and resurfacing of City streets, helping the City reach the crucial goal of resurfacing 131 miles of streets annually.
These investments earned widespread praise from business associations, the Controller and Council members, with some noting that these investments build on the Mayor’s unprecedented investments in the city’s education system, last year:
Councilman Allan Domb: “As I have consistently said, there is no single greater threat to the fiscal health of Philadelphia than the Pension Fund, as it continues to hinder the City’s ability to reduce taxes and enhance services. I applaud the Administration’s responsible plan and feel confident that, if we stick to the blueprint, we can get to 80 percent funded in 13 years. This will lead to a stronger Fund, and a stronger Philadelphia for generations to come.”
Controller Alan Butkovitz: “The Highway Maintenance funding has been neglected for far too long, resulting in potholes and inferior conditions. It’s Very encouraging that additional funding has been proposed to repair our roads and fix this long outstanding problem.”
Jennifer Rodriquez, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: “On behalf of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am encouraged that the Mayor proposes the continued reduction in wage and business taxes, which are essential in maintaining a good business environment for entrepreneurs. Likewise, the REBUILD program will make significant investments in neighborhoods and will provide new economic opportunities for businesses and residents that live and work in these communities.”
Andy Thomas, President, Philadelphia Firefighters & Paramedics Union Local 22: “For years, the Fire Department has struggled with defunding and the tragic loss of Firefighter Joyce Craig and others. This budget finally gets the Fire Department back on the right track and we’re grateful to Mayor Kenney for having our backs.”