A bill cutting the amount of money Pennsylvania can borrow for economic development projects and to put into law restrictions on how the program operates was passed by state lawmakers Wednesday.
Both the state House and Senate voted unanimously to cut $600 million from the $4.05 billion upper limit on borrowing for the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said he would sign it.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, said the changes were meant to make the process by which projects are chosen more transparent, including public comment requirements.
We are ensuring that we can pass a more financially secure commonwealth on to our children and grandchildren,'' he said on the floor.
Corbett press secretary Jay Pagni said many of the procedural changes had been adopted by the administration last year.
Each year, lawmakers typically pass a wish list of projects, but it's up to the governor to decide which ones to fund. The bill limits the viability of projects to 10 years after legislative approval.
"We overhauled the RCAP system to make it more metric-based,'' Pagni said. "We took politics out of the process. Priorities were placed on job growth and economic impact, as well as the `shovel-readiness' of the project.''
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai says this is the first time the borrowing limit's been reduced since RCAP began in 1999. It was $1.2 billion that year, then increased on five occasions under Gov. Ed Rendell.
Some 8,000 projects have been listed in the nine itemization bills that have been passed over the past 14 years. A bill with a new list of projects is expected to be considered by a legislative committee next week, Turzai said.
Pagni said the administration expects to authorize $125 million in new projects this year.