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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh Firefighter Union Asks Governor to Let City Leave Act 47 State Oversight

A week after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett asking that the city stay under Act 47 state oversight, the city’s firefighter’s union is asking the opposite.

“The Act 47 team wrote a letter to the governor saying, ‘We’ve exceeded all of our financial expectations by the plan.’ And as such they recommended that we go out of 47,” said union president Joe King.

In late 2012, then-mayor Luke Ravenstahl joined Act 47 coordinators and other city officials in calling for the city to be released from the fiscal oversight. Even at that time, then-councilman Peduto disagreed and said the city should remain. As mayor, Peduto sent the letter to Corbett making the request official.

Now the union has sent its own letter to Corbett, asking him to release the city from Act 47. King said Peduto’s request to keep the oversight is politically motivated.

“He wants us to stay under 47, especially the policemen and firemen, because he thinks he can try to control the collective bargaining arbitration process,” King said.

Under Act 47 annual raises for union members are limited. Plus, King said that over the decade of state oversight, police and firefighters have made concessions resulting in the loss of firefighters and closure of six fire stations along with reduced or lost pension benefits, holidays and vacations.

Peduto has said the city is not ready to be released from oversight, and a path out must be well thought out and deliberate. Peduto also said there are several items that must be addressed in the final recovery plan including pensions, debt, and items from the 2004 recovery plan that have not been implemented. He said rushing out would not leave the city fiscally strong.

Still, King said he believes the city is ready and said Peduto’s stance has more to do with the fire and police unions not supporting him for his candidacy for mayor.

“People have said to me, ‘You know, there could be some heavy consequences with this,’” said King. “Listen, we deal with consequences and risk every day. That doesn’t bother us at all. Bring it on.”

The ultimate decision on whether to release Pittsburgh from Act 47 status is be up to the state Secretary of Community and Economic Development. When the city is released, it will still have to answer to a second panel, the ICA, which was created by the state legislature to help Pittsburgh manage its finances.