Monday, February 9, 2009

Legislative Alert

This message comes from Geoff Brace with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, regarding the Governor's proposed budget and how it will affect the Main and Elm Street programs:

Legislative Alert
Governor’s Proposed Budget
What it means for Main Street and Elm Street and What YOU can do today!

On February 4, 2009, Governor Rendell released his budget proposal for FY 2009-2010. There was a build up in anticipation over this budget after several cuts were made to the FY 2008-2009 budget in December of 2008. Amongst the cuts in the mid-year review of the 2008-2009 budget were freezes in New Communities’ spending and a total cut of approximately $2.3 million (13.29% cut). This dropped the line item for New Communities from $18 million to $15.4 million for the FY 2008-2009 budget.

The FY 2009-2010 budget includes additional spending cuts, though not as drastic as had been feared. This budget projects $15 million in spending for FY 2009-2010, a cut of approximately $400,000 over the revised projections from FY 2008-2009. In total, from FY 2007-2008, this represents a total of $3 million in cuts to the New Communities budget, a total of 15% cut. It should be worth noting that several other community development line items, including the Community Revitalization Program, Urban Development Program, Community and Business Assistance Program, Community and Municipal Facilities Program, Local Government Resources and Development Program and Regional Development Initiative Program were all cut completely, representing a total elimination of $101 million. The Community Action Team, Community Conservation and Employment, Economic Advancement and Community and Regional Development budgets were also significantly reduced. In other words, Community Development, as a whole in this budget, has taken significant cuts in budgeted spending for 2009-2010.

PDC is already making arrangements to provide budget testimony in attempts to either restore funding to the 2008-2009 budget projections or at a minimum ensure that the cuts to funding do not exceed the Governor’s proposal. While other programs throughout the budget were eliminated completely, PDC staff is comfortable in saying that the Governor continues to show his commitment to Pennsylvania’s Core Communities when he reduced rather than eliminated funding for Main Street and Elm Street. In today’s economic climate, simply said, this could have been worse.

What Can You Do Today
The budget presented yesterday was Governor Rendell’s proposal. It is not law until approved by both chambers of the General Assembly. If the last several years are any indication, this will be a long process until approval. Expect both chambers to debate this vigorously. While the budget is supposed to be passed and signed into law by the end of June, expect this to drag out through the summer. This means you will have several opportunities to advocate to your legislators on this matter. Effective advocacy, however, starts early and is a constant relationship with your legislators. PDC has prepared the following action steps to get you started in your advocacy efforts TODAY:

1. Make sure your 2008 quarterly reports are completed and submitted to PDC. PDC anticipates having to provide testimony on the impact of Main Street and Elm Street across the commonwealth. In order to do that, we are relying on YOUR reports. There are several communities that have outstanding reports that need to be submitted through the online reporting system ASAP. Not only do your reports tell the story of what is happening in your community, but they also help to create a statewide picture that tells of the true economic and community impact of Main Street and Elm Street. To help you tell this story, PDC has attached the State of the Downtown and State of the Neighborhood Summaries for 2008.

2. Contact your state representative and state senator to make an appointment (see the link below to find your elected officials). Do this now! Do not delay this step. The purpose of that appointment is to educate your representative and senator about progress being made in your community. The most important part of advocacy is education and your initial visit should be to educate about your community revitalization efforts. Use the PDC assessment to provide data and your quarterly reports to paint a picture of change in your community. Provide narrative stories of business owners and home owners who received assistance and were able to make investments as a result of Main Street and Elm Street. Main Street and Elm Street certainly do make an impact on the Pennsylvania economy. As more communities update their reports, PDC will provide updated aggregates for both the State of the Downtown Report and State of the Elm Street Report. At the latest, expect this to be provided at the manager’s meetings in March.

3. As you are finishing your appointment, your state legislator will likely ask what he or she can do to help you. In addition to any other specific needs you might have for your community, ask your state representative to preserve the budget for the New Communities Programs. Ask specifically that the funding to be preserved at the level of $17.7 million from FY 2008-2009.

4. Email with the date of your appointment with your state representative and state senator. This will allow PDC to track which members need to be targeted most specifically.

5. Send a thank you letter to your state legislator with a reminder of the need to preserve the
budget for the New Communities Programs. Offer both yourself and PDC as a resource to help your legislator make informed decisions on this matter. Provide your contact information and contact information for Bill Fontana ( or Geoff Brace ( and the Harrisburg office (717-233-4675).
To find your legislator
Visit and type your zip code in the box found in the upper right hand corner of the page.

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