Rendell's $1 billion bond request cut to $650 million

 

The Rendell administration will only get a portion of the $1 billion it wanted to borrow to help finance public-improvement and other construction projects across the state.

State Treasurer Rob McCord on Thursday said he will sign off on a $650 million taxpayer-financed bond issue. That amount, he said, will ensure the flow of money for projects already under contract at least until June. At that point, Pennsylvania’s incoming governor, Tom Corbett, can decide how much or even whether to float more bonds.

“To approve a $1 billion bond issue at this time would be irresponsible,” McCord told reporters. “It’s more than we need … At the same time, to issue zero debt would be terribly unwise.”

The $650 million, McCord said, “while substantially less … is sufficient to keep the job-producing projects humming into June.”

Approval from either McCord or Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner is required for the bond issue. Last week, Wagner, the state’s chief financial watchdog, refused to approve it, saying that Pennsylvania’s debt had increased 39 percent since 2002 – and adding $1 billion into the mix would increase the debt an additional 12 percent, which, Wagner said, "is too much to put on the backs of our children and grandchildren."

At the time, the Rendell administration had said that if no money is approved, projects would be halted in their tracks and workers abruptly sent home, leading to costly litigation.

Asked to detail what would be affected if the $1 billion were rejected, the administration released a partial list of projects that included Family Court, the Free Library, the Barnes Foundation, the Franklin Institute, the Kimmel Center, the National Constitution Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Zoo.

Outside Philadelphia, the list included money for the new medium-security facility at Graterford in Montgomery County, the Bensalem police building and the downtown Doylestown parking garage in Bucks County, the Downingtown Library senior center and the Chester County Public Safety training facility in Chester County, and the Chester soccer stadium and the Boys & Girls Club of Chester in Delaware County.


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