Lawmakers act to reduce Pa. debt
It took a 16-day federal government shutdown to prompt the Pennsylvania General Assembly to limit borrowing for economic development projects. The contrast made by state lawmakers with their federal counterparts was part symbolic and part substantive.
As the dysfunctional federal government was careening toward a debt crisis averted only at the 11th hour, Pennsylvania was reducing its debt. The Legislature sent Gov. Tom Corbett a bill that reduces the cap on borrowing for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) projects by $600 million. Corbett is expected to sign it.
It's long been a personal goal of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, who railed at former Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell using the RACP fund as a piggy bank for projects across the state. Borrowing for those projects increased from approximately $1 billion to $4 billion under Rendell.
Keep in mind that the House didn't eliminate the program, which some have criticized for wasteful and politically connected projects. But it did establish better controls and add transparency including public hearing requirements, said Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, the bill's sponsor.
To demonstrate the lack of vetting before, Rendell told Trib reporter Debra Erdley on his last day in office in January 2011 that he did not know there was a hospital (Monroeville's Forbes Regional) just a mile away when he signed off on a $5 million grant for UPMC East.
It's often a mystery who the legislative sponsors are of multimillion-dollar programs. Job creation estimates typically seem inflated. Instead of resting on their laurels, state lawmakers should be digging deeper into the RACP for more transparency and reform. But what happened last week was a strong first step.
Corbett has been spending about $125 million annually from the Legislature's approved wish lists. Rendell spent on average $547 million a year, said Turzai's spokesman Stephen Miskin.
Here's the Washington comparison. The state House-approved bill languished in the state Senate last year. The House approved it again in February and it sat in the Senate until Wednesday (as the federal debt crisis loomed). Approval was then fast, furious and unanimous.
Turzai indicated the Senate seemed interested in timing and the voting history appears to support that. But the House didn't exactly bury the contrast. A House Republican press release carried the headline “No Gridlock in PA as Debt Reduction Bill Heads to Governor.” The first sentence stated, “In stark contrast to what is happening in Washington ... .” So something positive, perhaps, emerged from the federal shutdown.
“Unlike the current dysfunction we currently see in Washington, D.C., we are showing in Pennsylvania that we can work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to responsibly manage taxpayer dollars,” said Gabler, calling it a “good government” bill.
In a rare sign of that bicameral cooperation, the House GOP news release quoted Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.
Still, if one believes the Republican-controlled Legislature is the hallmark of efficiency, just look at its record in 2012 and 2013 of failing to approve the governor's top priorities of liquor-store divestiture, increasing transportation revenue and pension reform.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Komen acceptance of drilling-linked money raises ire
- Pirates acquire infielder from Indians, designate Axford, Gomez for assignment
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Jack Bruce, bassist of 60s band Cream, dies at 71
- Flight 93 memorial fire hints at struggle to safeguard historic artifacts
- Cafeteria worker tried to stop Washington school shooter
- Ferrante trial: Cyanide order form in plain sight
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Fábregas: Cancer-stricken California woman chooses to plan her death
- Penguins look to buck shots, goals trend
- Man robbed, shot in East Liberty