By Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Wyoming)
It should come as no surprise that many industrial cities across the Commonwealth have struggled over the past several years, especially due to the effects of the “Great Recession.” A prime example of those cities is Scranton, which is dealing with a high level of debt, increased taxes and a massive downturn in its once vibrant manufacturing industry.
As pointed out earlier this year by the Scranton Times-Tribute editorial board, the city has no shortage of sites which are ripe for redevelopment. Unfortunately, as the state’s only Class 2A city, Scranton has been excluded from the important City Revitalization and Improvement Zone program, or CRIZ, which is designed to help cities redevelop areas which were once alive with industry. I recently introduced House Bill 614, which would make sure that Scranton is included in this program.
Specifically, CRIZ allows a contracting authority to establish a 130-acre zone within a municipality. The baseline revenue for the site in state and local taxes is then measured and an increment of that future revenue is directed back to the contracted authority, allowing it to repay bonds issued for the development process, or to pay for the project directly.
Under current law, cities of the third class with a population of at least 30,000 are eligible if they have never been in receivership. Boroughs and townships with a population of at least 7,000 are also eligible to apply for a pilot zone under the program. In addition to these two CRIZ designations and the pilot zone, beginning in 2016, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), along with the Revenue and Budget Office, may authorize two zones each year. There is no limit on the total number of zones.
My legislation would not designate or set aside a zone for Scranton, but it would make the city eligible to apply for the program. As many communities in the northeastern region of our Commonwealth continue to recover from the economic downturn, I know that the possibilities for redevelopment are wide-ranging in Scranton. In fact, I believe the passage of this legislation would be a major step in Scranton’s road to recovery. I believe the economic benefits of this legislation would extend to all of Lackawanna County, as well as the counties which surround it.
I look forward to committee consideration of this important legislation followed by review of the full House.
Representative Karen Boback
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Nick Ruffner