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Daley: Dems might flip to pass budget

| Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, 12:51 a.m.

State Rep. Peter J. Daley predicted Democrats will vote for a Repbulican-authored budget if Gov. Tom Wolf does not compromise.

Wolf vetoed the budget, which led to an impasse that is nearing three months.

The California Democrat made the comments Thursday in Monongahela.

“The governor is a businessman,” Daley said. “He does not understand that in government you have to work it out. Democracy is about compromise.”

Daley's comments came during the Monongahela Area Revitalization Corporation's 10th annual town hall meeting in the Monongahela Fire Hall.

Daley and state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll, differed on how the budget should fund education.

Daley claimed Wolf's predecessor, Republican Tom Corbett, cut education spending, and that the GOP-authored 2015 budget passed June 30 would inadequately distribute state dollars in a way that would benefit affluent school districts. Bartolotta said the budget would give Wolf the $400 million in education money he wants, but would include pension reform for future teacher hires.

Both agree that education funding better serves school districts in the eastern half of the state.

The subject for the town hall meeting was “Utilizing Our Resources To Improve Our Local Economy.”

The panelists – Daley, Bartolotta and Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi – said the area's best resource is its people, and its immediate future is based on oil and natural gas production.

Tourism further presents economic opportunity for the Mon Valley, they said.

Bartolotta said the revitalized Noble J. Dick Aquatorium in Monongahela, the site of a summer concert series, and walking tours of the city's historic downtown area, sponsored by the Monongahela Area Historical Society, are examples of tourism promotion.

“We're one of the lucky ones,” Bartolotta said. “We're one of the river towns which still has a heartbeat. I can see a spark here, and it's exciting to fan that flame.”

Bartolotta and Daley noted that if Community College of Allegheny County establishes a satellite campus in Donora, it would spur economic growth throughout the Mon Valley. CCAC officials are in talks with the borough and county about moving into the former Donora Elementary Center.

Daley spoke of his 33 years in the state House, saying he supported gaming so money would flow back to small communities in such forms as the Local Share Account, which supports development projects.

But he criticized the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell for not using gambling proceeds to reduce school property taxes.

Daley said the Governor's Action Team and the Keystone Opportunity Zone legislation he sponsored are economic tools. The latter provides tax breaks for new development.

“We put a lot of money into small businesses here,” Daley said. “You have something special here. You work together.”

Maggi said the Valley “has it figured out,” leaning on the experience and hard work of its people to promote economic opportunities. Maggi said tourism is important to the Valley economy.

While fielding questions from the audience, Daley criticized the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for not finishing the Mon/Fayette Expressway into Pittsburgh.

Maggi said the Valley is on the cusp of benefitting from Marcellus shale oil and natural gas production.

Daley said he does not support Wolf's proposal for an extraction tax on the shale industry, saying local communities benefit from local impact fees the industry already pays.

Bartolotta said Wolf's proposal is having a negative impact on the shale industry.

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