Rendell secures $300 million in budget deal for pet projects

Among the projects Gov. Rendell wants to fund are two to honor some of the state's once-leading Democratic powerbrokers - the late Rep. John Murtha and outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter. (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)

Gov. Rendell managed to win hundreds of millions for pet projects - most of them in the Philadelphia area - in his final budget.

As part of the deal approved by the General Assembly on Saturday, Rendell gets $298 million to hand out for projects over the next six months as part of the economic development borrowing bill. Two of the projects will honor two of the state's leading Democratic powerbrokers - the late Rep. John Murtha and outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter. 

One is the "Arlen Specter Library Project Center" at Philadelphia University and the other, in Johnstown, is the "John P. Murtha Center for Public Policy." Each project calls for $10 million in state money, according to Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

The move did not sit well with lawmakers, including in Rendell's own party. One western House Democrat and Rendell supporter on most policy issues, told Capitolwire: "Why would we cut library funding for the blind and disabled, for people across the state, but pay for libraries to commemorate Specter and Murtha? Talk about tone-deaf!"

About one-third of the money, including the library -- $97 million -- will go to Philadelphia, the newspaper reports. Add in the suburbs and the total for the southeast is $158 million, more than half the total amount.

In addition to the library and policy center there is $25 million for unspecified community or business revitalization projects in Ambridge, Bristol and Chester, among others and $10 million for an unspecified hotel at Fourth and Race Streets in Philadelphia and $1.5 million for construction, renovations and infrastructure improvements “for an industrial facility” in Montgomery County.

Some conservative activists are assailing the projects as wasteful pork at a time of economic hardship. Others tell Capitolwire that previous governors - Ridge, Schweiker and Casey - did the same thing, showering their home districts with a bunch of cash on the way out.

Rendell is expected to sign the budget either Tuesday or Wednesday.

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