Blake Discusses State Budget, Legislative Priorities at Annual Legislative Breakfast

SCRANTON, February 24, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake today hosted over 100 local and municipal officials at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in Scranton for his seventh annual legislative breakfast.

The wide-ranging discussion focused mostly on the $32.3 billion state budget proposed by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this month and how budget priorities and decisions will affect school districts and municipalities across northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The budget proposed by Governor Wolf is a function of dealing with both the fiscal and political realities facing the Commonwealth and represents a very strong starting position for our ongoing budget negotiations,” Blake said. “The Governor’s budget rightly proposes an increase in funding for all of our local school districts still feeling the pinch from the four years of insufficient funding under the previous administration. It is imperative that we continue working to increase the state’s share of funding a quality, public education.”

The Governor’s proposal includes new revenue from a new severance tax on natural gas extraction and proposes combined reporting for Pennsylvania businesses – both initiatives that have been supported by Senator Blake since taking office in 2011. Blake currently has legislation that would gradually reduce Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax and provide for a phased closing of the so-called Delaware Loophole by implementing mandatory combined reporting.

Blake also discussed the Governor’s proposed $25 per capita fee for 2.5 million Pennsylvanians who live in municipalities receiving full-time state police coverage. In the 22nd Senatorial District, seven municipalities rely solely on the Pennsylvania State Police for police coverage and would be subject to the fee.

 

“Due to budget pressures over the last handful of years, we have been forced to pull money from the Motor License fund – money supposed to be used to improve our roads and bridges – to pay for state police coverage,” Blake said. “There is a lot of contention on this issue, and I am a cosponsor of an alternative solution that would provide for a direct dollar-for-dollar exchange in relation to the actual cost of providing police coverage.  We need to reduce reliance on the Motor License Fund while ensuring adequate support for our PA State Police to ensure public safety throughout the state.”

Blake noted that significant property tax reform was not discussed in the Governor’s budget address but it should be an important issue in our negotiations for a final state budget. Blake recently joined his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus to call for a special session of the General Assembly to address property tax reform or elimination.

“Property taxes are a significant burden for a large number of Pennsylvania families and something needs to be done – but in any solution, we need to ensure that we can continue to adequately and predictably fund our public education system,” Blake added. “The tax shift under certain property tax elimination proposals would be near $14 billion dollars – and would also let casinos, retailers and businesses off the hook. We need to be sure that any tax shift does not disproportionately burden working class Pennsylvanians.”

Looking ahead, Blake is hopeful that he can get final passage of his Senate Bill 234, the Property Assessed Clean Energy bill, which would establish a financing mechanism that enables low-cost, long-term funding for energy efficiency and water conservation upgrades at commercial or industrial properties.

“The PACE bill presents a win-win situation – it is market-driven and does not cost the taxpayers a  dime,” Blake said. “Currently, 33 states authorize PACE financing for clean energy and energy efficiency projects and we are hopeful – that with nearly 25 cosponsors – our bill can reach the governor’s desk this session.”

Blake, who serves on the Senate Democratic Caucus leadership team in the role of Caucus Administrator of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that he hopes to reach a bipartisan agreement on a balanced state budget, pension reform and property tax reform.

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Blake: RACP Grant Applications Now Being Accepted

SCRANTON, January 5, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that applications for the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) are now being accepted. 

RACP is a commonwealth grant program administered by the Governor’s Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and community development improvement projects.  In 2016, five projects in Lackawanna County received $9 million in RACP grants.

“RACP funding continues to be important in leveraging private investment in our region and it supports critically important economic development and job creation projects,” Blake said. “Across Northeastern Pennsylvania – and particularly in the City of Scranton – we have seen important state investments from this program.  These investments revitalize neighborhoods; they support our business community and our workers; and they have enhanced facilities and programing at our institutions of higher learning.  It is my hope that we are again able to bring RACP funding to our region to continue our economic growth and progress.”

Blake said that applications are only being accepted until February 3 so it is imperative for eligible organizations to apply soon for this highly competitive program.   Only projects identified and authorized for funding under law through Act 85 of 2013 are eligible to apply.  This program requires a dollar for dollar match in non-state funding in the project and, if approved, all project related expenses must be incurred and satisfied in advance of approved reimbursements from the state.

Per RACP guidelines, a project is eligible for a RACP grant if it has a cultural, civic, historical, regional or multi-jurisdictional impact and generates substantial increases in employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity.

For more information about the RACP program, visit www.budget.pa.gov/Programs/RACP/. Organizations eligible to apply for RACP grants can submit their application electronically through the DCED Electronic Single Application website at https://www.esa.dced.state.pa.us/login.aspx

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Blake Announces Nearly $ 1 Million in Conservation Grants for Local Projects

SCRANTON, December 14, 2016 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced nearly $1 million in state grants for four Lackawanna County projects that will upgrade local parks and enhance recreation opportunities.

The local funding is part of an over $45 million investment in 260 projects across the Commonwealth by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program.

“I applaud the work of the Wolf Administration and DCNR officials for continuing to deliver significant state support for impactful local projects that will improve our local parks and recreation opportunities for Lackawanna County residents,” Blake said. “These investments are a great example of state funding making a positive impact and improving the quality of life in our communities.”

The largest local grant was a $499,900 grant awarded to the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority to continue the development of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in Dickson City. The grant will fund the construction of 1.1 miles of trail from Railroad Avenue to Lackawanna Avenue in the borough and other related site improvements.

The City of Scranton received $288,000 for the rehabilitation and further development of Novembrino Park on 10th Avenue in West Scranton. The project will include the construction of a splash pad, pavilion pedestrian walkway and a number of other improvements.

Olyphant Borough received $65,000 for the rehabilitation of Rep. Joseph Wargo Park at Fern Hill in the borough. The work will include renovation of the field house/concession/storage facility at the park and a number of other landscaping and site improvements.

Lastly, Countryside Conservancy received $119,000 for the acquisition of 82 acres along Hack Road in Benton Township to enhance public recreation opportunities.

The Community Conservation Partnerships Program (CCPP) is administered by DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation to provide financial and technical assistance to local governments, river and trail organizations, land trusts and other nonprofits for planning, acquisition and development of park, recreation, conservation and greenway projects.

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Blake Announces $ 1.2 Million in Multimodal Grant Funding for District Projects

HARRISBURG, December 6, 2016 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that three Lackawanna County projects will receive $1.2 million in grant funding through the Multimodal Transportation Fund.

The funding, approved earlier today at a meeting of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA), is slated for projects at Keystone College, the University of Scranton and in Covington Township.

“Both the University of Scranton and Keystone College have been making incredible improvements to their respective campuses in recent years and these state investments will allow these institutions to continue to pursue their visions and ultimately, attract more students to Lackawanna County,” Blake said. “In Covington Township, the improvements to Bochicchio Boulevard are long overdue and this state funding will allow for the necessary improvements to this main thoroughfare to North Pocono High School.”

Keystone College will receive $456,660 for the construction of a pedestrian walkway and to make a number of pedestrian safety improvements on the campus in La Plume Township. The University of Scranton will receive $404,086 to complete Phase 3 of their pedestrian circulation improvement project in the center of campus. Lastly, Covington Township will receive $339,254 to make stormwater and roadway improvements on Bochicchio Boulevard.

The Multimodal Transportation Fund, through the CFA, provides grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of the commonwealth.

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Blake: Over $5 Million in Grant Funding Approved for District Projects

HARRISBURG, July 1, 2016 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced more than $5 million in state grant funding for projects throughout the 22nd Senatorial District.

The funding, approved earlier today at a meeting of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA), includes over $3.3 million in grants to Lackawanna County projects in the form Local Share Account funding; CFA Multimodal Transportation Fund grants; and Act 13 funding.

“Each of these grants is a very important state investment into our communities and regional economy that will create jobs, enhance the quality of life and improve public safety,” Blake said. “Through gaming revenues, an impact fee on drilling and our Act 89 reforms, we have been able to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into our communities and make positive, long-term impacts across the Commonwealth.”

Blake said that he worked closely with state Reps. Mike Carroll, Sid Michaels Kavulich and Marty Flynn to maximize funding opportunities for regional municipalities and organizations.

The majority of the grants approved today were through the Monroe County Local Share Account. Blake noted that LSA funds may be used for economic development, community development and public interest projects in Monroe County and its contiguous counties, which include Carbon, Lackawanna, Northampton, Pike and Wayne.

The following Lackawanna County economic development projects received funding through the Monroe County Local Share Account:

  • The Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO) received $200,000 for renovations to the Scranton Enterprise Center. Currently, the Scranton Enterprise Center has 19 companies with 112 employees; it is anticipated that 10 new companies will occupy the facility and create 100 new, full-time jobs.
  • The Friendship House received $100,000 to complete a number of facility renovations at their Scranton location. The project will result in the creation of 8 permanent, full-time jobs.

The following Lackawanna County community improvement projects received funding through the Monroe County Local Share Account:

  • The City of Scranton received $250,000 to convert the Serrenti Memorial Army Reserve Center into an Emergency Services Center which will be a secondary location for government operations and become a central location for multiple law enforcement operations.
  • Dimes from Heaven Foundation received $150,000 to renovate an existing school building to serve as a community center in Fell Township.
  • The Lackawanna County Land Bank received $160,000 for the creation of a land bank authority and its operating costs.
  • Waverly Township received $91,000 for the replacement of a parking lot at the Waverly Community House.
  • The Co-Operative Farmers Market received $83,140 for renovations to the market in Scranton.
  • Old Forge Lions Little League received $77,100 for the demolition and construction of field lights at the Miles Street Sports Complex.
  • The Lackawanna County Parks Department received $51,590 for the purchase of routine park maintenance equipment.
  • Jermyn Borough received $50,000 to make a number of improvements at the municipal building.
  • Taylor Borough received $30,000 to complete the financing necessary for the construction of a splash park.
  • Dunmore Borough received $28,010 for improvements and repairs to the walking trail around the border of Dunmore School District.

The following Lackawanna County public interest projects received funding through the Monroe County Local Share Account:

  • Spring Brook Township received $412,000 for the construction of a municipal garage adjacent to the current DPW building.
  • Elmhurst Township received $130,000 for the purchase of a 2016 Ford Super Duty F-550 DRW truck, snow plow, salt spreader, and skid steer to maintain township roads.
  • Madison Township received $122,000 to fund new paving and shoulder backup to the existing Howe and Becks Crossing Roads.
  • The city of Scranton received $105,142 to supplement a 2014 LSA award for the purchase of an Aerial Platform Ladder Truck.
  • Clarks Summit Borough received $93,300 for the purchase of two SUV police cruisers to replace two aging police cruisers.
  • Archbald Borough received $45,000 for the purchase of two police vehicles.
  • Old Forge Borough received $40,000 to upgrade the police department’s Taser equipment and to purchase mobile tablets.
  • Vandling Borough received $25,000 for the purchase of a Kioti tractor.

In the Monroe County portion of the 22nd Senatorial District, five projects received a total of $800,000 in LSA grants. The following projects received funding:

  • The Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport Authority received $400,000 for the construction of two new buildings and the demolition of a third at the facility in Coolbaugh Township.
  • Arrowhead Sewer Company received $240,000 to complete a low-pressure sewer rehabilitation project in Coolbaugh Township.
  • The PA Northeast Regional Railroad Authority received $90,000 for the rehabilitation of the railroad trestle located at the Scranton Access Control Point at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
  • Pocono Mountain Regional Emergency Medical Services received $30,000 to purchase two automated chest compression devices.
  • Price Township received $20,000 for the purchase and installation of an emergency backup generator for the township municipal building.
  • Barrett Township Volunteer Fire Company received $20,000 for the purchase of a utility terrain vehicle, firelite transport and a carry-on trailer.

The lone recipient of LSA funding in the Luzerne County portion of the 22nd Senatorial District was the Casey Dental Institute, which received $150,000 to assist in the construction of a 10,000 square foot addition to the Pittston Township facility that will house a surgery and a special needs dental clinic.

Three Lackawanna County projects received funding through the CFA Multimodal Transportation Fund, which include:

  • Crystal Window & Door Systems received $400,000 to renovate the presently uninhabited Corning plant in Benton Township to create a state-of-the-art window manufacturing and assembly facility. It is estimated that Crystal will create 519 new jobs in Benton Township.
  • Geisinger Clinic received $300,000 to complete Phase I of a streetscape project near Geisinger Community Medical Center in the city of Scranton.
  • Covington Township received $190,000 to pave Sanko Road in the township.

The Multimodal Transportation Fund, through the CFA, provides grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of the commonwealth.

Lastly, the CFA approved funding for projects under Act 13 that include abandoned mine drainage abatement; abandoned well plugging; sewage treatment; greenways, trails and recreation; baseline water quality data; watershed restoration; and flood control.

The only recipient of Act 13 funding in Lackawanna County was Mister Mulch through the Flood Mitigation Program. Mister Mulch received $110,000 to construct a drainage system at their Dickson City Borough location.

In the Luzerne County portion of the 22nd District, Susquehanna Mining Solutions received $718,921 to through the Abandoned Mine Drainage Abatement and Treatment Program for the continuation of the AMD Treatment Facility Project in Duryea Borough. Also, Dupont Borough received $85,000 for in Flood Mitigation funds to make repairs to the Mill Creek Flood Protection Channel in the borough.

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