Reforming State Borrowing for Corporate Welfare

FEBRUARY 13, 2012 | by ELIZABETH STELLE

Icon Debt

Since 1986, state lawmakers have authorized more than $4 billion in borrowing for the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (or RACP). This is effectively debt for corporate welfare and other pork-barrel projects.

Last week, Gov. Corbett approved funding for the Arlen Specter memorial library, a Rendell-era RACP project Corbett campaigned against in 2010. In the end, the administration couldn't find a legal way to refuse the funding. Now House lawmakers are out to reform RACP and prevent future monuments to politicians.

HB 2175, unveiled at a press conference Wednesday with Rep. Mike Turzai and Rep. Rosita Youngblood, proposes to reform the way the Commonwealth incurs debt and shrink the RACP program. The bill reduces the RACP debt ceiling from $4.05 billion to $3.5 billion and then gradually to $1.5 billion over 20 years.

Pennsylvanians already owe $120 billion in combined state and local government debt—almost $10,000 for every man, woman, and child. Reforming RACP is an important first step in getting our debt under control, but a better solution would be to eliminate future RACP borrowing entirely.

Apart from the staggering amount of taxpayer debt, paid off over decades, the program is littered with economic projects of questionable benefit, from corporate headquarters to sports stadiums. Most recently, RACP was the source of a $3 million grant to the Second Mile, the charity founded by accused child molester Jerry Sandusky.

HB 2175 seeks to open up the process, requiring notification of the legislators affected, a public meeting to be held in the affected community, and certain information to be posted online.

HB 2175 was voted out of the House Finance committee today.



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