Will Act 47 end in Harrisburg this year?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - House Speaker Mike Turzai has strong opinions about Harrisburg getting out of Act 47 while keeping its tax increases.

Turzai released a statement late Wednesday that took a shot at Harrisburg.

"Allowing the city to maintain the increased taxes under Act 47 without the oversight to rein in its spending would only seek to encourage the city to continue the spending habits that got them into Act 47 protection in the first place," Turzai said.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse disagrees. 

"I feel that the speaker is probably not as familiar as he could be with Harrisburg's remarkable financial recovery," Papenfuse said. "We're making great progress, and our goal is to work with Democrats and Republicans to protect taxpayers."

If the city gives up the increased tax revenue, Papenfuse believes the burden would fall even harder on taxpayers.

"If we don't have that, there would potentially be a commuter tax, which would negatively affect the region," he said. "It could be a massive property tax increase, which nobody can afford."

Legislators will ultimately decide.  

"We're not asking for anything new," Papenfuse said. "We just want to keep what we have, continue moving forward, and that's the strong fiscally conservative responsible decision to make."

Papenfuse says the city has already slashed the budget and eliminated millions of dollars in debt, but under Act 47, it can't cut its way out of the problem.

"The debt that we have left is very manageable, but it is at a higher interest rate than we like to pay," he said. "We'd love to refinance that debt and we'd like to do that if we get out of Act 47. That will save the taxpayers money."

Regardless of the legislators' decision, Papenfuse is hopeful. 

"I think we have a lot of bipartisan support, and Harrisburg is definitely moving in the right direction," he said.

Papenfuse says he looks forward to sitting down with Turzai to give him a detailed explanation of Harrisburg's situation.

Turzai says he helped the city of Pittsburgh get back on track in 2004 when it was facing a similar situation.

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