Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation Monday to reduce the footprint of a state redevelopment program that has been a conduit for millions of dollars in state aid to Northeastern Pennsylvania in recent decades.
The House voted 184-9 to send the bill overhauling the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to the Senate.The measure, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Pittsburgh, would immediately reduce the RACP debt limit from $4 billion to $3.5 billion and implement a longer-term reduction to $1.5 billion. The bill would start to weed out a list of 8,000 unfinished projects authorized under nine capital project laws dating to 1999. Other provisions would require a local hearing before a project is approved and online posting by the state Office of the Budget of approved RACP projects with the name of the applicant.
Key RACP projects in Lackawanna County include the renovation of PNC Field in Moosic, a headquarters building for TMG Health Inc. in Jessup and the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton.
The legislation is in line with the Corbett administration’s goal of linking the amount of money approved annually for RACP projects with the amount of outstanding debt being retired on earlier projects. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby is looking to spend $125 million annually on RACP projects, about one-third of peak levels during the Rendell administration.
“We’re not eliminating them (RACP projects),” Turzai said. “We are giving them boundaries. We are giving them focus and reducing overall debt.”
House Minority Whip Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, expressed concern about reducing spending on RACP projects when the economy is still weak.
“We should be doing everything we can to create jobs,” Hanna said.
The legislation will steer money to projects with a community-wide or regional economic impact and keep current requirements that projects have a total cost of at least $1 million and require a sizeable 50 percent match of local dollars.