HARRISBURG, July 1, 2013 — Senate Democrats today decried a Senate Republican-led measure to deprive municipalities of a unique opportunity to drive local investment and revitalize underdeveloped areas.
A proposal that was amended into the Tax Code bill associated with the 2013-‘14 state budget (House Bill 465) authorizes City Revitalization and Improvement Zones (CRIZ) for eight third-class cities with populations above 30,000.
CRIZ designations would enable new investment in local economies by redeveloping eligible vacant, blighted and/or abandoned properties for commercial, exhibition, hospitality, conference, retail community or other mixed-use purposes.
However, the measure, approved on a party-line vote, excludes 45 of the state’s 53 third-class cities as well as the City of Scranton.
Sen. John Blake (Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) attempted to amend the CRIZ legislation in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include all third class and 2A cities in the program.
Blake said City Revitalization and Improvement Zones impose virtually no cost for the state, is limited in scope to two designations per year and provides strict controls and reviews to ensure proper implementation. Additionally, Blake said the annual CRIZ designations would be approved by the governor’s Budget Office, the Department of Revenue and the Department of Community and Economic Development.
The senator added that he believes the limitation on cities’ participation in the program was arbitrary – preventing an equitable playing field where all of Pennsylvania’s small cities could compete in a merit selection process. Blake’s amendment failed, again, on a party line vote.
Sen. Rob Teplitz (Dauphin/York) said the Republicans’ plan to exclude Harrisburg, despite the city being within the population parameters for inclusion in the program, was a shameful tactic that deprives it of an opportunity to compete for assistance through the program.
Sen. Jim Brewster (Allegheny/Westmoreland) said the CRIZ program has the potential to do more.
“There is a great need to generate economic activity and jobs in all third class cities, and a selected few should not be favored above others,” Brewster said. “Economically struggling cities in my district should have access to funding tools to help them create jobs.
“All cities should have a chance to participate and compete fairly,” Brewster said. “The program should be inclusive and tax dollars should not be doled out based on politics.”
Sen. John Wozniak (Cambria/Centre/Clearfield), who has been working with a bi-partisan Third Class City Caucus, said the legislation should have given preference to Act 47 (financially distressed) municipalities.
The Senate Democrats agreed to return in this fall to work on expanding the CRIZ program statewide to all of Pennsylvania’s small cities.
Mark Shade (Sen. Blake) – 717-787-9220 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Rementer (Sen. Teplitz) – 717-787-5166 or email@example.com
Tim Joyce (Sen. Brewster) – 412-380-2242 or TJOYCE@pasenate.com