PA Senators Costa and Vulakovich Reintroduce Waterfront Development Tax Credit Bill

Feb 3, 2015

Pittsburgh's rivers and riverfronts have been transformed by economic development and environmental protection over the last few decades.
Credit Flickr user Ronald Woan

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) said when he was a kid, people often warned him not to get to close to Pittsburgh’s three rivers. But the polluted industrial riverfronts of generations past have slowly been replaced by family-friendly recreational opportunities and big-ticket development projects such as PNC Park and South Side Works.

Vulakovich and his Democratic colleague, Sen. Jay Costa (Allegheny), want to help other cities and towns across the commonwealth replicate that kind of success. The pair has reintroduced Senate Bill 282, the Waterfront Development Tax Credit, which received approval in the Finance Committee last session but never made it onto the floor for a vote.

The legislation would offer a tax credit of up to $10 million to any business or organization that contributes financially to a nonprofit waterfront improvement organization. Vulakovich said the initiative has received broad, bipartisan support in the chamber.

“Everybody loves the bill,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans and just about anybody that has any water in their area.”

Contributions to waterfront nonprofits, such as Riverlife Pittsburgh, must be earmarked for specific projects, but Costa said a wide variety of initiatives are eligible.

“Projects could be anything from expanding right of way to the waterways, parks, gardens, open space, environmental projects, erosion control, you name it,” Costa said. “There’s a host of things we can do, including transportation facilities that could relate to waterfront development and also water taxis, for example.”

Costa and Vulakovich said Pittsburgh’s success in riverfront development shows that through the tax credit, the state can make its money back, and then some.

“Over the course of the past several years, we’ve had $130-plus million invested in 10 waterfront development projects, that spurred about $4 billion in investments in adjacent developments, whether it be corporate headquarters, hotels, entertainment and sports complexes and the like,” Costa said.

The tax credit is currently capped at $10 million because of the state’s tight budget situation, but Vulakovich said the credit could be expanded in the future.

He said he expects the bill to receive approval in both chambers, and that nearly every representative and senator in the legislature could see a benefit to their district.

“Out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, 64 have significant creeks and rivers and lakes,” Vulakovich said. “There are only three counties that really would have a problem qualifying for this.”