Pennsylvania’s Economic Development and the Budget Crisis
The latest development around the Pennsylvania state budget is a stark bridge bill that was signed by Governor Rendell today, allowing for state workers to be paid. The bill is a bare-bones version of Senate Bill 850, the harsh budget proposed by the Senate Republicans. The next step for the legislation is the same one that Keystone residents have been waiting for since July 1st: an approved state budget. The Conference Committee is in the process of trying to iron out the differences between the Senate, House, and Governor’s budgets, and frustrated Harrisburg insiders report that the two sides seem to be speaking different languages in the attempt to reach a compromise.
It has been a long road, and it seems that the light at the end of the tunnel cannot come soon enough. However, any suggestions of a resolve bring the very real possibility of deep program cuts. With the Republicans rallying against any tax increase, the likelihood of unfunded mandates is looming. If a cuts-heavy state budget is passed, the counties and municipalities will bear the burden of funding local programs.
As written about in a previous post, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) stands to lose funding for crucial incentive programs, which aid the state in better planning practices and smarter development choices. In 2005, the Economic Development Cabinet adopted The Keystone Principles & Criteria for Growth, Investment & Resource Conservation, a sort of bullet-point vision for growth within Pennsylvania. The DCED’s funding programs have aspired to adhere to this vision, which boasts such smart growth goals as brownfield revitalization, transit-oriented development, and infrastructure improvement. Some noteworthy examples of successful DCED programs include the Community and Economic Development Loan Program, which funds up to 50% of the cost of projects that will improve distressed communities, and the Neighborhood Assistance/Neighborhood Partnership Program (NAP/NPP), which builds coalitions among local businesses and neighborhood organizations by providing corporate tax credits. The promotion of good growth practices is the essence behind these DCED programs, and cuts in funding will only exacerbate the problems within needy communities.
I encourage you to check out the entire line-up of DCED programs on their website to better understand what is at stake in these budget negotiations. Additionally, make sure to add Crossroads to your RSS reader to stay up to date on the Pennsylvania budget.