Nothing to worry about Penguin fans but it just never ends
*Courtesy of the Tribune Review*
HARRISBURG – A Senate panel is arguing whether Allegheny County projects earmarked under the 2004 slots law should take a hit because of $7.5 million a year added for a new Uptown arena in a bill that is part of the proposed state budget deal.
Sen. Jane Earll, R-Erie, chairwoman of the Senate Community and Economic Development Committee, said Friday she was concerned about the fairness of providing the Penguins money on top of hundreds of millions of dollars for other projects in the county included in Act 71, which legalized slots. That takes money away from projects in other parts of the state, she said.
Earll said existing Allegheny County projects should be removed from legislation that would give final approval to projects funded with gambling money, or the total amount for each project should be reduced. “That is what I am insisting on,” she said. The arena money, part of an agreement intended to ensure the hockey team stays in Pittsburgh, wasn’t in any apparent jeopardy. The largest projects earmarked under the slots law were $150 million for debt service and development at Pittsburgh International Airport and an $80 million development fund for the county. Other projects included retiring debt of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Earll and other senators said the legislation was being negotiated.
“We are still working through that process,” Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said last night. “We’re not there yet.” The panel is expected to consider House Bill 1631 today. Money for the arena is part of an agreement between legislative negotiators and Gov. Ed Rendell on a $27.4 billion state budget that could be voted on this weekend. The legislation contains $880 million over 30 years for expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. One project likely to be stripped out of H.B. 1631 is $15 million over 30 years intended for “a nonprofit community development fund to fund infrastructure, construction” in the Hill District.
The legislation, as approved by the House, included $240 million over 30 years for the arena and the unnamed nonprofit. Earll confirmed that the Senate’s version of the bill has $225 million for the arena — and no money for the Hill District development fund. It didn’t meet the “criteria” for funding, said Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless. Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, added the money for the nonprofit in the House version. It was intended for development throughout the neighborhood, he said. Wheatley said although a nonprofit was not specified by name, the likely candidate was the Hill District Community Development Corp. The money would be funneled through the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, he said.
The money would have gone a long way to making sure the “community that hosts the arena is respected and invested in,” said Marimba Milliones, chair of the Hill Community Development Corp. “It was our hope that our senators would have protected and advocated for funds to come back to the Hill District,” Milliones said. Majestic Star Casino, which won a license to build a North Shore casino, has offered to pay $1 million a year for three years for redevelopment of the Lower Hill District, seed money for what casino owner Don Barden said would be a $350 million project. Since the slots license was awarded, the Penguins and Majestic Star have agreed to share development rights for the Mellon Arena site. Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, said the differences over arena money and other Allegheny County projects probably would be resolved. “I think in the end it gets done,” he said.
(*Courtesy of the Tribune Review*)
MY take: The Penguins are not worried so i’m not worried at the moment. This will get resolved but enough is enough. Just get this arena built. What people in this area should be made about is losing funding for other projects, while Philadelphia is still getting a share of theirs.