By Pat Loeb, Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has introduced a budget that he himself described as “serious, radical and ambitious.”READ MORE: Fight Outside Pat's Steaks In South Philadelphia Ends With 1 Person Dead, Victim's Father And Friend Hospitalized
As the mayor told it, this budget has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been listening to budget addresses in this chamber for over two decades and while we’ve had great mayors who’ve done many important things, the core challenge facing our city hasn’t changed and that’s just unacceptable,” said Kenney.
Arriving at City Council to present his new budget proposals, Mayor Kenney was greeted by a standing ovation.
Kenney drew still more cheers, making it clear that spending $256 million to expand pre-K education along with creation of 25 community schools were among his top priorities.
“Our failure to properly educate our children has reverberated throughout our entire economy,” the Mayor stated inside a packed City Council chambers.
Kenney also proposed $350 million to restore libraries, parks and rec centers, $550 million annually for 800 police body cams, and $80 million for new fire equipment and repairs, along with cuts to wage and certain business taxes.
He became emotional talking about meeting at Vare Rec Center with parents of murder victims.
“And I couldn’t help but think, if we had the resources to make Vare a center of the community, these parents wouldn’t even be here. They’d be in the next room watching their kids play basketball,” said Kenney.
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But the Mayor warned to turn his proposals in the $4 billion dollar budget into reality, he will need council’s support to pass a controversial 3 cents an ounce soda tax, raising $400 million to fund his proposals.
“There is simply nowhere else to find the revenue,” Kenney explained in his council address.
“We all know we can’t raise property taxes again, God forbid, who would want to go through that one more time.”
“We can give our citizens all those things with just one tax and I know that one tax can make some very wealthy and very powerful people very upset, but I’ve seen this council take on special interests before and I know together we can do it again,” said Kenney.
Supporters packed council, applauding even for the tax measure, but the proposals have a long road ahead.
While Council members applauded the Mayor’s budget priorities, none was willing to predict if the controversial foundation for his proposals – the soda tax – had any chance of actually being passed by Council.MORE NEWS: New Jersey Set To Expand Funding For Pre-K Education, Gov. Phil Murphy Announces
It’s believed Kenney’s good relationship with Council, after serving there for 23 years, will be helpful as the work to come up with a final budget, and the funding for it now begins.