Turzai Legislation Would End Pet-Project Debt Program
HARRISBURG – Breaking free of spiraling debt for pet-projects is the basis of legislation unveiled today by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) at a Capitol press conference joined by his colleagues, including Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland County), Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery County), and Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D-Philadelphia).

“The out-of-control borrowing and spending policies of the past just don’t work, and the growing RACP is saddling our kids and grandkids with a credit card bill which will last for at least 20 years to come,” Turzai said. “Like all state spending, capital projects deserve public scrutiny and careful evaluation, my legislation makes that happen.”

According to Turzai, putting Pennsylvania’s financial house in order is a top priority for members of the House, and part of that is controlling spending in the annual operating budget; and part is dealing with the state’s capital budget and the responsible issuance of debt.

Created in 1999 with an initial debt ceiling of $1.2 billion, the RACP debt ceiling has been raised six times since then, pushing it up to $4.05 billion. There are approximately 8,000 RACP projects that have been added to the program’s list since 1999.

RACP provides a list of private or public economic development or infrastructure projects, funded by borrowed money, from which the governor can select recipients of that borrowed money.

Turzai’s legislation would reduce the RACP debt ceiling, initially to $3.5 billion from its current $4.05 billion, then, incrementally until it reaches $1.5 billion. The bill does not eliminate the economic development grant program, but redefines it and makes it financially viable.

The legislation redefines the program to finance “buildings and related infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges, tunnels, waste disposal, storm water, sewage or water infrastructure; bridges or roads when part of an economic development project) projects with a total cost of $1 million or more, and would generate or maintain substantial economic activity (e.g. substantial increases in employment or maintenance of tax revenues) and have a substantial regional or multijurisdictional economic impact.

Projects on the current Itemization list that have not been authorized as of December 31, 2011 would expire. To be awarded from any future Itemization Acts, a project must comply with all new RACP requirements.

Finally, the legislation would create a new stringent review and approval process within the Office of the Budget. The Budget Office would develop eligibility criteria and establish guidelines for the process.

“It’s time that state government pays down its debt and rein in this much maligned grant program,” Turzai said. “This legislation offers responsible reforms while ensuring these grants stimulate regional economic growth in an open, transparent, process. Taxpayers deserve no less.”

State Representative Mike Turzai
28th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Stephen Miskin
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/SAM1963

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