By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – State lawmakers agreed unanimously Wednesday to a $600 million decrease in the debt limit for the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, an economic development driver used for lawmakers’ and governors’ pet projects.
Even with the new $3.45 billion limit for debt in the RACP program, lawmakers have plenty of wiggle room when it comes to funding their projects.
As Karen Langley, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, first reported Thursday, the RACP program currently has about $2.75 billion in debt.
That means lawmakers can still spend $700 million in RACP before hitting the new, lower limit.
That doesn’t mean the legislation passed Wednesday was entirely symbolic. By putting the new limit into law, it will make it more difficult for future administrations and General Assemblies to crank up the RACP machine into high gear again.
The bill also contained some systematic reforms for how projects will be selected, including a new “scoring system” that will take job creation into account.
But any accolades lawmakers received for lowering the debt limit — particularly striking since they did so on the same day Congress voted to increase the ceiling on the national debt — should be tempered by the fact they gave themselves plenty of room to spend more money through future RACP projects.
To get funded, a project must be added by the Legislature to a list of eligible RACP projects. Then, the governor’s office chooses which projects get funded, while other projects can remain on the itemization list for years without funding.
The program’s list includes more than 8,000 projects, though most have not been funded.
The state Senate recently passed a bill to add more projects to that list, though it hasn’t been approved by the state House.
Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.