Harrisburg Mayor Hopes Religious Fast Will Make Budget Deficit Go Away

harrisburg mayor

Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson and the city’s religious leaders wrapped up a three-day fast and prayer campaign today to help “fix” Harrisburg’s daunting fiscal woes.

Amid the fast, the Harrisburg City Council passed a resolution asking the mayor to prepare documents to file for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy protection.

Thompson said she hoped the fast would help the city and its officials find common ground to revive Harrisburg’s fiscal health. She has often been at odds with City Council, and has resisted several calls for her resignation.

“Things that are above and beyond my control, I need God,” Thompson told WHTM, the local ABC affiliate. “I depend on Him for guidance. Spiritual guidance. That’s why it’s really no struggle for me to join this fast and prayer.”

Thompson told Reuters that she opposes the bankruptcy option approved by the Council. She added that the state “has to respect the publicly elected officials in this city.

Pennsylvania officials are hoping to avoid the bankruptcy option. A team of state-appointed advisors has called for a rescue plan to address the city’s $3.5 million budget deficit – expected to grow to $10.4 million by 2015 — and a $300 million debt from a doomed 2002 retrofit of the city’s trash incinerator.

City council members have until July 23 to approve the plan, which would sell the incinerator, renegotiate labour deals and cut jobs.

The Pennsylvania state Legislature is now considering a bill that would allow a state-appointed board to takeover city finances if the city fails to approve the financial rescue plan. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday he would sign the bill.

“Virtually every municipal official elected in the City of Harrisburg has taken an irresponsible position concerning the city’s fiscal mess,” State Senator Jeffrey Piccola, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.

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