Info for Students » Uncategorized

Barletta quick to take credit for Pittston project grant Mark Guydish Commentary

Mark Guydish August 25 WAS I THE only one who thought it a little strange when Lou Barletta, a federal legislator, took credit for a state grant funding a Pittston project?The $3 million comes from the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), run by the Office of the Budget. When I called about the program, I was told that, yes, it is 100 percent state, no federal involvement whatsoever. Yet it was Washington Rep. Barletta who announced this Harrisburg grant, which will go toward construction of a $6.45 million retail and office building. Barletta even took credit. His spokesman, Shawn Kelly, said Lou wrote letters and called Gov. Tom Corbett in support of the grant. The project is worth it, Barletta said, and I quote:“I’m proud to have played a role in securing funding.”When Barletta visited The Times Leader Monday, I asked about this. Lou drew a legitimate difference between being on the RACP list and actually seeing the dough. “The part about RACP money is getting it released. It’s not getting it appropriated, it’s getting it released,” Barletta said. “I believe I helped by being a pain in the back, calling, telling (Corbett) how important it is as a mayor. I felt in my heart that my assistance … played a role.” Sounds reasonable, except the money had already been “released” 10 months ago, according to an Aug. 4 letter from state Office of the Budget Secretary Charles B. Zogby to Pittston Redevelopment Authority Director Gerald Mullarkey. Zogby wrote:“As you are well aware, on Oct. 29, 2010 and Nov. 19, 2010, Governor Rendell authorized the release of a total of $3 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding for the Pittston Main Street project.”So how could it be released twice by two different governors?Zogby’s letter notes “the grant agreement for the RACP funding was not fully executed prior to Jan. 18, 2011” – Corbett’s inauguration. After that, the governor’s office started reviewing “all similar RACP releases from the prior administration.”Corbett had every right to stall unexecuted grants. He could have let the process already under way just continue, and eight months seems pretty sluggish for the release of money already released, but it was his right.And Barletta is hardly the first politician to take credit for a grant he had no direct hand in rewarding. This one felt like a stretch that would stress Gumby, but his claim may be valid.I find ita bit curious that such a rigorous proponent of deep government cuts and balanced budgets would so easily embrace RACP spending on a building that has no guaranteed tenants. Here’s why:RACP started with $400 million in 1986. The amount was increased nine times under four governors, hitting $4.05 billion in 2010 under Rendell. Talk about government growth …And it’s borrowed money. Each time the amount rose, the law was changed to increase “the commonwealth’s General Obligation borrowing authority,” according the Office of the Budget website.Barletta said he feels the project is worthwhile; it probably is. One question, though.If they struggle to fill it and it becomes a government-funded white elephant, will Lou be as quick to take some blame? Mark Guydish can be reached at 829-7161 or email Tweet Follow @TLbreaking Send Question or Remark to the Publisher

Comments are closed.