Corbett launches state takeover of Pa. capital

October 25, 2011 - 1:10 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett launched a state takeover of the troubled capital city on Monday by declaring a fiscal emergency there.

Corbett, a Republican, made the declaration four days after he signed a law that grants him the ability to take unprecedented control over much of Harrisburg's finances, including the ability to use the city's money to ensure that government continues to operate services, issue paychecks to employees and make pension and debt payments.

"City Council's failure to enact a recovery plan in order to deal with the city's distressed finances has led me to declare a fiscal emergency," Corbett said in a statement. "This action ensures that vital services will continue and public safety will be protected."

The law, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, was a response to an unprecedented rejection by Harrisburg's City Council of a state-sanctioned financial recovery plan. Meanwhile, Democratic Mayor Linda Thompson and the City Council have been unable to agree on a strategy to repay the city's approximately $300 million debt tied to the city's trash incinerator.

The bankruptcy filing, which Thompson and Corbett oppose, cites "imminent jeopardy" from lawsuits related to tens of millions of dollars in missed debt payments on the trash incinerator by Harrisburg, a city of about 50,000 residents 100 miles west of Philadelphia on the Susquehanna River in the southern part of the state.

The likelihood of Corbett's takeover hastened a move by a divided City Council to file a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in federal court earlier this month. Opponents of the takeover law say it is unconstitutional.