State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is sponsoring legislation to reform the process for state assistance in capital project funding.
Turzai said the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project's debt ceiling has ballooned in the past two gubernatorial administrations, and he hopes to lower that ceiling.
"It takes the limit immediately down from $4.05 to $3.5 billion and then over the next eight years it takes it to $3.1 billion, and then it takes it down further over the remainder of the 20 years to $1.5 billion," Turzai said.
But the representative wants to do more than just lower that ceiling. Turzai and the co-sponsors of HB 2175, Representatives Rosita Youngblood (D-Philadelphia), Eli Evankovich (R-Allegheny), and Mike Vereb (R-Philadelphia) want to give the edge to applicants for grants to those that promote job creation.
"The amount of funding that you bring to the table outside of the RACP gives you more points," Turzai said. "Then in addition, if you are a regional large employer, that gets you higher in the strata for approval."
Turzai said library projects, something previously helped by RACP funds, are not what the reformed plan is focused on creating.
"I would say they would be far less likely to be approved … it is much more geared towards projects that create jobs, economic drivers," Turzai said.
Youngblood, who was unaware of a particular project in her district that constituents vastly disapproved of, hopes the reform will require more interaction between contractors and the community in which projects are planned.
"This legislation will require all RACP projects to undergo at least one public informal meeting in the community where the project is to be built," Representative Youngblood said. "Furthermore, the proposal will require the secretary of the budget to inform the state senator and the state representative where the project is located that the project has been approved for funding."
Representative Evankovich outlined some of the new standards for RACP approval.
"Giving special emphasis with projects on regional or multijurisdictional economic impact, it requires at least 50 percent non-state funding. Projects with 75 percent or more non-state funding may receive preference, and in order for an RACP project to be approved, it must be shovel-ready," Evankovich said.
The reform also calls for a freeze on new projects until the debt ceiling falls below $3 billion and sets an expiration date on projects on a "wish list" while limiting new projects to two years on the list. It would also prevent project approvals, which ultimately come from the governor, from happening between the gubernatorial election date and inauguration.
Currently, projects for highways and street improvements, drinking water, and wastewater facilities and housing units are not eligible for RACP grants. Turzai's plan would put an emphasis on funding these types of projects.