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Fontana Fighting to Restore Line Items for Economic Development Programs

HARRISBURG, May 26, 2011 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D – Allegheny) announced today that he will fight to restore separate line items for the Small Business Development Centers, Local Development Districts, Industrial Resource Centers and Industrial Development Corporations, rather than seeing the programs collapsed into the proposed Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance, or PREP.

“While I appreciate what the Department of Community & Economic Development is attempting to accomplish with the PREP Program, I have serious concerns about whether they can meet their goals in such a short time period,” said Fontana. “I believe it is something that they can accomplish for the next fiscal year, but believe that in order to assure that our businesses receive the services that they need from these programs, that the line items should be preserved for the coming fiscal year. This action and additional time will allow the program to be developed and details to be worked out in a manner that best benefits our Commonwealth without rushing through the process.”

Senator Fontana said that he heard testimony at a May 18th Senate Policy Committee where there were many questions and concerns about the PREP program and how it would be accomplished. During a hearing this week held by the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, Senator Fontana said that the answers from the Department Secretary and Deputy Secretary only resulted in more questions for him and raised more concerns about the time frame established by the Department.

“A draft guidance document, telling these organizations what the program will look like, was just issued this week and the Department expects to have it finalized by the time the budget passes. That time frame is less than a month and then they expect to accept applications, enter into contracts and have funding driven out by the end of the calendar year,” Fontana said. “Although I can certainly respect how aggressive they are being to this, I think that economic development and these programs are far too important to our Commonwealth to rush through this process.”

Fontana’s proposal would re-establish the line items for each program as an individual line item and would allocate the $12 million budgeted for the programs (as provided in the current budget bill) among the four with an across-the-board reduction of 22.85%, reflecting the reduction in the fiscal year budget that is being proposed.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana