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Mayor Kenney's budget proposal includes bold plans

The recently-elected mayor outlined a visionary and ambitious plan for the city's finances in his annual address to the Philadelphia City Council.

In the official Mayoral address to City Council on Thursday, March 3, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a budget of more than $4 billion that relies heavily on a sugary drinks tax but, in a welcome change from recent years, includes maintained funding for two major arts entities.

Mayor Kenney's Mayoral budget address, accompanied by the official budget proposal from the administration, included a $400 million windfall from the possible sugary drinks tax. As outlined in his speech to Council President Darrell Clarke and the sixteen other members of City Council during the regular Thursday session, this tax would go toward funding universal Pre-K, community schools, rebuilding parks and recreation centers, the city's pension system, and more projects.

While the debate about the so-called soda tax is already taking place in the media and online, the majority of the proposed budget--totalling $4.17 billion--is going toward established programs. Two of those are the Mayor's Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. In Mayor Kenney's FY2017 proposal, the budget for OACCE and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund were maintained from the previous year. The Cultural Fund in particular will continue to receive its $3.14 million allocation, which will be granted to nearly 300 arts and culture organizations throughout the city.

In past years, major advocacy pushes were necessary to restore funding cut from arts and culture. This year, an ambitious "program-based budgeting" approach forced many organizations to accept across-the-board cuts to their bottom lines. Maintained funding for OACCE and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund will allow their programming to continue reaching neighborhoods, schools, and families throughout the city.