Rendell defends $20 million for marquee projects

    Plans for facilities named after Specter, Murtha draw fire

    Gov. Ed Rendell speaks at a budget-signing ceremony today in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

    Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is defending allocating $20 million to projects named after U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and the late Congressman John Murtha.

    Nearly every state department lost funding in this year’s budget, but $300 million will be distributed for construction projects across the state under an accompanying bond measure.

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    That includes $10 million for an Arlen Specter Library at Philadelphia University in the city’s East Falls section, and a matching amount for a John Murtha Policy Center in Johnstown.

    For Specter, the honor comes as his 30-year career in the U.S. Senate is ending. The longtime Republican switched parties and lost the Democratic primary in May.

    Murtha, a Democrat, represented southwestern Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives for 36 years until his death in February.

    The two line items drew the ire of conservative lawmakers during weekend budget votes, but Rendell is defending them.

    “The Murtha project will help us in the long run because it’s technology. It’s going to be a technology center,” he said.

    “The Specter library – it’s just a good construction project. It’s necessary,” Rendell said. “Philadelphia University, I know about it. I don’t live far from the campus. They could use an expansion and the Specter library will help them do just that.”

    Rendell said the borrowed money can’t be used for operating expenses, so the $300 million would not have restored any budget cuts.

    The borrowing bill was passed by both legislative chambers on Saturday, less than a day after its line items were made public.

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