Every man, woman and child in Pennsylvania owes just over $10,000 in state and local debt. Today, the state House made another positive step towards reducing that debt burden. HB 2420 passed the chamber on a 114-82 vote. A related bill, HB 2419 has advanced from committee and awaits a floor vote when the legislature is next in on October 6.
HB 2420, sponsored by Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, would reduce the state’s borrowing for the RACP programs by $50 million each year beginning in 2018-19 until it reaches $2.95 billion. Last year, RACP’s debt limit was reduced from $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion.
RACP allows taxpayer-backed borrowing for private projects, like sports stadiums and corporate headquarters. RACP has a long history of funding questionable projects such as the Arlen Specter Library, the bankrupt August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh and a $3 million grant to the Second Mile, the charity founded by convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
HB 2419 sponsored by Rep. Mike Turzai would cap the annual borrowing for new projects beginning in 2015-16. Specifically, the bill would cap:
- Redevelopment Assistance Capital Projects, known as RACP, at $125 million
- Flood Control Projects at $25 million
- Highway Projects at $25 million
- Public Improvement Projects at $350 million
- Transportation Assistance Projects at $175 million
House lawmakers should be commended for tackling Pennsylvania’s borrowing problem, and recognizing that RACP subsidies crowd out private investment and prevent broad-based tax reduction to stimulate job growth for all.