Harrisburg, December 18, 2012 – Acknowledging the escalating problems in economically-challenged communities across the state, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats today discussed their plans to address a wide range of problems impacting aging and distressed cities.

The “Growth, Progress & Sustainability” or GPS plan focuses on developing new policies that foster cooperation while addressing and strengthening the core of distressed communities.

“The reality is instead of planning for growth and economic development, many cities are contemplating bankruptcy,” Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said.   “We could no longer stand back and watch while the rich heritage of Pennsylvania erodes amid shrinking tax revenues and tax bases.”

Costa said the intention of the plan is to help transform communities and bring some much needed light to the end of the tunnel.

“Pennsylvania needs a new road map to help our cities and our towns,” said Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria).  “Communities are struggling – from Scranton to Harrisburg and Reading to Johnstown and all places in between.  Today we’re presenting the GPS plan to serve as a foundation to address the issues and transform our cities and communities.”

Senate Democrats are committed to working with local leaders to further develop the GPS plan which highlights broad areas of legislative interest.  The areas the Senate Democrats outlined are including:

  • Economic development
  • Rebuilding the local tax base
  • Urban blight
  • Crime/Public Safety Initiatives
  • Education & workforce development
  • Modernizing and streamlining local government to reduce costs
  • Act 47 and Local government Unit Debt Act

According to Senate Democrats, many of the identified communities continue to face huge obstacles as each attempts to provide government services at a time when tax revenues and tax bases are shrinking.  They said that they recognize no solution can be effective or lasting without addressing each of the interconnected parts outlined in the plan and understanding how they affect residents.

“Revitalizing our urban areas and strengthening surrounding communities requires we assess and understand their struggles,” said Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks).  “Our focus needs to be squarely on quality of life for the families living in these areas.  We owe it to them to ensure these issues are addressed and their needs met, as we move forward.”

Working with local governments, Senate Democrats acknowledged the need for vision, focus and commitment.  This includes providing the tools communities need to help themselves before their circumstances become untenable, they said.

“We want public policy that is proactive, cooperative and supportive, not reactive, punitive and vindictive,” said Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna).  “We want to develop long-term, sustainable solutions that will enable these communities to rebuild and thrive.”