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Gabler Debt Reduction Legislation Bound for Governor’s Desk
October 17, 2013- Jessica Illuzzi
HARRISBURG – Legislation to reduce the state’s debt, require more efficient and transparent use of taxpayer dollars when awarding grants, while continuing to fund projects that promote job creation through Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett.
 
The State Senate and House approved the legislation to require increased transparency and guidelines when awarding economic development grants through the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). House Bill 493, authored by Representative Matt Gabler, would decrease the Commonwealth’s RACP debt ceiling from its current $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion, an immediate reduction of $600 million. It would also require major changes to the program and application process and require rigorous monitoring and reporting for all grants to be maintained.
 
“Passage of House Bill 493 is a vote for the people of Pennsylvania, who deserve better stewardship of their hard-earned dollars, as well as those of future generations,” Gabler said. “I am glad to see my colleagues in both the Senate and the House agree with this legislation, which increases the efficiency of an economic tool that is already in place, but was often misused by the previous administration.”
 
Corbett's spokesman says he supports the bill, which puts into law changes the administration implemented on its own last year.
 
“All state funded projects deserve public scrutiny and careful evaluation, and this legislation will make it happen,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai. “Working with the governor and legislative leaders, we have been able to reduce the debt ceiling and debt payments, and we brought openness and accountability to the process.”
 
The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program provides grants to local communities for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, and historical improvement projects. The funding can be used for economic development projects which generate increases in employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity.
 
“The RACP has provided our local communities with help funding numerous regional economic development projects, including medical facilities, industrial parks, manufacturing facilities, workforce development centers and YMCA’s,” Senator Joe Scarnati said. “These important reforms to RACP will maintain the program as a viable economic development tool and ensure that it is administered in a purposeful, objective and transparent manner.”
 
Reforms to the RACP legislation, as amended into the bill by the Senate, will also protect rural communities and ensure that project applications from rural counties receive equal consideration as those from suburban and urban areas.
 
“Our goal is to make sure that every tax dollar spent on economic development creates significant growth and job opportunities for Pennsylvanians,” Scarnati said. “This legislation will provide greater scrutiny and ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely and efficiently.”
 
“My bill places less of a burden on our kids and grandkids by reducing the amount of debt we are allowed to carry and forced to pay on every year,” Gabler pointed out. “As a result, more tax dollars will now be available for support and maintenance of government’s core functions.”
 
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