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Politics & Government

PA Lowers Debt Limit, Increases Capital Spending Controls

With a unanimous vote, lawmakers in Harrisburg have taken the unusual step of lowering the state’s ability to borrow money.  The House and Senate approved a bill this week that reduces Pennsylvania’s debt ceiling from $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion. 

“Under Governor Rendell the debt limit was increased five times and we felt we needed to reduce our debt service payments and reduce our overall debt,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). 

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) is administered by the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget, which states on its website that the grants are intended to be used for “the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and historical improvement projects.” 

The bill, which is still awaiting Governor Tom Corbett’s signature, also puts more controls over the approval of projects under RACP.

Under House Bill 493 all projects must have been listed in a capital budget within the last ten years and then be subjected to a public hearing.

“The idea is we brought openness and transparency to the program,” Turzai said.

In the past the RACP program has been criticized for being used as a slush fund by powerful politicians.

“The two that come to mind are the [Congressman John] Murtha and [Senator Arlen] Specter Libraries,” Turzai said. “But there are others that are telling and comparable.”

Turzai hopes the additional sunlight will prevent those types of projects from being funded.