Pa. struggle over grant funding process chalked up to politics

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    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    A skirmish is unfolding in the final days of Pennsylvania’s legislative session with an effort to change the approval process for funding economic development projects.

    Opponents call it a legislative power grab.

    Senate Republicans voted to put economic development spending in the hands of a little-known state authority with an abysmal record on transparency.

    But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said the governor’s office should maintain control of which projects get funding.

    “We believe that that function is a function that should rest solely with the administration, the governor,” Costa said.

    Costa, D-Allegheny, also characterized it as a political move right before an election expected to favor the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

    “There’s no question that it’s a move to maximize the legislators’ power,” he said. “But also I view it as a white flag being raised by Senate Republicans in a sense that they now see that their governor’s not going to do well and they want to maintain opportunities.”

    Drew Crompton, chief counsel and spokesman for the GOP Senate president pro tem, said the Corbett administration doesn’t take lawmakers’ input on economic development projects.

    “They ask us to submit lists, submit recommendations, and then they ignore all of them,” Crompton said.

    The obscure agency that would get final say on state grants gives outsize influence to legislative appointees.

    Gov. Tom Corbett opposes the measure, and many lawmakers say it may be stalled for the remaining few days of session.

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