ICA is defunct, but Pittsburgh still needs it to approve the budget
Pittsburgh still has to submit a budget to a state authorized fiscal oversight committee, despite the fact that the committee is, by all accounts, defunct and the state in February released the city from financial oversight.
City officials said they plan on submitting a 2019 spending plan to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority for approval by Sept. 21 as required by state law.
ICA officials are in a quandary about what to do with it. The state hasn’t funded the organization since 2017. It has no staff and and no money to conduct a public meeting.
A law that would terminate the ICA has been stalled for months in Harrisburg.
“Normally the board would meet in October and review the budget and either approve it or disapprove it,” said Reynolds Clark, the ICA’s executive director, who’s been volunteering his time since state funding dried up. “We do not have any operating funds in which to hold meetings or anything. We’re sort of moving through uncharted water here. They can submit it to the ICA, and we’ll have to figure out how to process it.”
Pennsylvania in 2004 classified Pittsburgh a distressed city under Act 47 because of chronic deficits, overwhelming debt and underfunded employee pension plans. Under the act, Pittsburgh had to submit budgets to Act-47 coordinators and take other steps based on their suggestions to resolve its financial crisis.
State lawmakers the same year created the ICA, which acted in a similar fashion. Pittsburgh had to submit budgets to the ICA and act on its orders regarding spending and other fiscal issues.
In February, Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin declared Pittsburgh financially sound and released it from oversight, but state legislators have yet to act on terminating the ICA.
The Pennsylvania Senate in June passed a bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, that would end the ICA. The legislation sits in the House Urban Affairs Committee headed by Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry. Messages left at Keller’s three offices Friday were not returned.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, said lawmakers would meet for about 10 days in September and October and could theoretically pass the bill. He said he was unsuccessful Friday in reaching anyone in Republican leadership to ask about it.
“For all intents and purposes the ICA is not doing anything now. We don’t need it,” Dermody said.
House Republican caucus spokesman Steve Miskin said the bill won’t be a priority.
“Our priorities for the remainder of this session will be responding to the grand jury report (on priest abuse) and finishing work on some other public safety and government reform bills,” he said.
Pittsburgh officials said they plan to follow the law until hearing otherwise.
“We’re kind of used to it,” said Pittsburgh Budget Director Jennifer Presutti. “We’ve had too do this for the last 14 years.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.