Here’s some interesting news from Harrisburg over the last couple of days.
If you recall last week, there was news that newly elected and returning legislators will get a 1.7% cost-of-living pay raise starting December 1, when the new Legislature opens for business, even though they won’t be sworn in until January. Many elections won by candidates based on fiscal conservatism, amid high unemployment numbers and screams to stop the spending, a pay raise discussion at this time was causing quite a stir by tax-payers.
Yesterday, Auditor General Jack Wagner called for a moratorium on the scheduled 1.7% cost of living adjustment for public officials. He is asking that this be the first action of the new General Assembly in January – putting a moratorium on the 2011 increase. He further states that the moratorium would save the state $3 million in 2011 and save $12 million over the course of the next 4 years. Hope that our local officials will support the Auditor General on the moratorium. Every little bit helps and this is the right signal to send to Pennsylvanians!
Second bit of interesting news from Harrisburg. Governor-elect Corbett has put together a transition group of more than 400 business leaders, conservative activists (including 2 Tea Party people), veterans of past Republican administrations, legislators and is said to have included even a few Democrats. The members will serve on 17 transition committees, which will examine 25 departments and agencies in state government. They will help Corbett choose his Cabinet members. Why is this interesting to Community Matters? One of Tredyffrin’s own was named to the transition team.
Malvern resident and Chester County Commissioner Carol Aichele was named as the co-chair of Corbett’s ‘Local Government Committee’ and also as member of the Commonwealth Committee that will look at the Office of Administration and Department of General Services. Some suggest that by serving on the transition team, members may have an inside track to Cabinet positions. So, next question – wonder if the next step will have Carol heading to Harrisburg as a Cabinet member?
The third recent item from Harrisburg that caught by eye has to do with Governor Rendell. Apparently Rendell is planning to issue an additional $1 billion in bonded debt before leaving office! If Rendell pulls this off, it will be history making as the largest lame duck spending proposal in Pennsylvania’s history. If approved, the $1 billion new debt will actually cost the state’s taxpayers more than $1.6 billion over the next 20 years in the form of annual debt service payments of $82 million.
However, this proposal would require the approval of both the governor and either the Auditor General (Jack Wagner) or the State Treasurer (Rob McCord). Based on Wagner’s statement about fiscal responsibility and the moratorium on the 1.7% cost-of-living increase for state officials, it is no surprise that he does not support Rendell’s proposal. Treasurer McCord is the tie-breaking vote. However, before he makes a decision McCord is asking the advice of Governor-elect Corbett.
The state is facing a $4 billion+ debit next year, so this new proposal would challenge the state further, to more than $9 million. As a historic reference point, in June 2002, the state held $6.1 billion in debt, which has since increased to $8.4 billion, a 39% increase. For the record, the new debt would only cover projects which are already in progress or that the state had contractually agreed to complete. It is possible that if funding were not provided for the contracted projects, developers could bring lawsuits against the state for breach of contract.
I decided to find out which projects would be funded with the proposed $1 billion in new debt. I was curious if the planned Paoli Transportation Center was on the list. Looking at the following list, I don’t see anything that looks like it could include Paoli’s transit center – I’m guessing that it is too soon in the planning and development process for Paoli Transportation Center to be a RACP (Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program) project, correct? If you are interested, here’s the entire list of projects that would be included in the proposed $1 billion in new debt:
- $400M public improvement projects (things like new state prisons, flood protection projects, high hazard dam repairs, renovations of state park facilities, renovations to military facilities and veterans homes, renovations to higher education facilities.
- $200M in bridge repair projects for structurally deficient bridges across the state.
- $155M of the proposed $1B is for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) projects. Those RACP projects are for previously approved projects that have gone through the application and contracting process already and are for RACP projects currently under construction.
- $114M in funding for transportation assistance projects to the local transportation agencies for upgrades and repairs to mass transit, rail freight projects and aviation projects.
- $76M for Pennvest grants and loans for repairs and renovations of local water and sewer infrastructure.
- $30M for Growing Greener II projects for environmental reclamation and preservation projects.
- $25M for Pennworks grants and loans for repairs and renovations to water supply and wastewater treatment projects at the local level.