Harrisburg City Council passes budget amid marijuana talk

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There was a sense that the marijuana effort overshadowed Harrisburg City Council passing the 2016 budget.

The $60 million budget passed with no problems, but there is still work to be done.

“We passed expenditures and appropriations, basically. We still have some work ahead of us with the Act 47 process, but we cannot have a budget,” Councilman Ben Allatt said.

The budget consists of nearly $3 million of projected revenue that will come from a proposed tripling of the Local Services Tax, which would need to be raised by ordinance. Council will hold public meetings to get feedback from taxpayers on the proposal.

“We have already stated that $24,000 and under you don’t have to pay and anything above that you do have to pay the additional tax,” Council President Wanda Williams said.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s recently announced plan to lessen penalties on pot cases was a topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting. Under the plan, first-time offenders would receive a $100 fine, the second offense would be $200 and the third would be a misdemeanor charge.

The goal is to free up police officers, and it generated comments and questions.

“Being 2016, I feel like we really need to move forward on this and I applaud you guys for starting this,” one Harrisburg resident said.

“What role if any will the [district attorney’s] office have because sometimes the police will look to the [district attorney] for criminal charges,” resident Lenora Smith asked.

Others said they supported the effort to a point.

“$100 is too high for a first offense, and $200 is too high for [a] second offense, and elevating [the] third offense to a misdemeanor is unjust as well,” another resident said.

Papenfuse said it is time to take the lead.

“I like out ‘three strikes and you are out’ provision. It is the right approach for Central Pennsylvania,” Papenfuse said.

The city will begin holding public hearings on the local service tax and the marijuana effort.

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