First flood aid bill moving in other chamber
HARRISBURG - The first of a series of state flood aid bills is seeing action in both legislative chambers, a necessary step to eventual passage.
The Senate Finance Committee last week approved a House-passed bill to give local governments authority to reduce property taxes for properties substantially damaged by floods. The bill now goes to the Senate floor.
It's been eight months since the destructive flooding throughout the Susquehanna River Basin due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Sen. John Gordner, R-27, Berwick, has expressed frustration at the slow pace in getting bills to provide a state supplement to federal disaster relief money to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk for signing. Gordner took the lead in assembling the Senate flood package approved last fall. The House approved its own flood aid package last month.The Senate bills rely more on state borrowing for road and bridge repairs while the House bills generally transfer money from existing sources to pay for repair and reconstruction work.
The state aid is to supplement millions of dollars of federal disaster relief through a 25 percent match.
The two chambers are still hung up over a compromise on borrowing versus transferring money from the Motor License Fund to pay for road and bridge repair projects, said Gordner.
"It's been a challenge," he added. "I believe we should do a reasonable amount of bonds."
Resolving the issue is important because only a small share of federal highway repair money has been released to Pennsylvania, said Gordner.
Road-repair projects in Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Bradford, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Sullivan counties are authorized in the bills.
Also, Pennsylvania's ability to do flood-control projects is jeopardized by the impasse, said Gordner. Bills in the package authorize flood control and hazard mitigation projects, thereby providing a funding source needed to draw federal money.
The goal of the House package is to draw as much federal aid as possible without borrowing excessively on the state's part, said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh.
"We put our package together working with the (Corbett) administration," he added.
Miskin expressed confidence that flood aid bills will eventually reach Corbett's desk, but couldn't predict when.
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