Pew Report Examines Commonwealth's Act 47 Program

Jul 31, 2013

A new report points out to policy makers what some municipalities already know: Pennsylvania’s program for helping distressed cities has an unimpressive track record.

Called simply Act 47, the program has claimed 27 cities and towns, and only six have exited the program.

Kil Huh, an author of the Pew Charitable Trusts report, said when the state does step in, a plan for stepping back out should be outlined.

"Intervention should involve all stakeholders, it should be transparent, and you know, state leaders have a strong incentive to return control over to those local leaders as quickly as possible," Huh said. "You know, given that the first two cities that entered into Act 47 are still there, that’s a concern for the program they currently have in Pennsylvania."

State lawmakers have been considering revamping the Act 47 program, with proposals to allow cities to collect taxes from nonprofits within their borders and allow distressed cities to renegotiate benefit awards for public sector workers.  

The Pew report recommends long-term monitoring may serve cities better, so problems are identified before cities find themselves in crisis.

Pennsylvania is one of 19 states with laws allowing them to intervene in local governments' financial crises.