City Council supports PA Works Now

Pittsburgh City Council members have asked state Sen. Jay Costa to make a full presentation on his PA Works Now legislation, after unanimously agreeing to support it in a “will of council” resolution.

“I support anything that will put our people back to work,” said Council President Darlene Harris.

Costa’s legislation, announced September 26, would set up a new Pennsylvania Investment Bank that, he said, would create 80,000 new jobs and provide an immediate economic stimulus. It calls for spending nearly $1 billion on water and sewer infrastructure projects throughout the state, and another $200 million on transportation, green building and communication technology projects, as well as job training programs.

“This plan is fully paid for,” he told Council during its Oct. 11 meeting.

The plan’s investment bank would be funded via $500 million in Commonwealth Finance Authority dollars, plus another $500 million from PENNVEST (Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority). The bank would also use $80 million in funds from a proposed Marcellus Shale tax or fee along with surplus state revenues estimated at $100 million.

The program would also create a PA Business Loan Guarantee Program that would encourage private lenders to make loans by permitting guarantees of up to 100 percent of the principal amount of the loan for new investment for borrowers willing to take at least a 10 percent equity interest in the project.

Additionally, the plan calls for using $30 million in federal dislocated worker monies for job training programs coordinated through the Workforce Investment Board in the Department of Labor and Industry designed to lead to permanent employment.

Another $25 million would go to employer tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed workers.

So, as outlined, the bulk of the funds would go to municipal water and sewer authorities and their contractors. While rebuilding these infrastructure assets would be a major benefit, how would the plan benefit unemployed Blacks in Pittsburgh who are not municipal construction contractors?

Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess said he has not dissected the plan yet and would not comment until he has.

Pittsburgh Councilmen R. Daniel Lavelle said he supports Costa’s plan but wants to ensure council has a say in the types of jobs created in the city.

“It’s imperative, especially given the unemployment rate in the African-American community,” he said. “The plan’s $30 million for job training is critical, as is the $25 million for housing renovation because people in the community could do that work. But there is an ongoing battle about getting African-Americans to do some of this union work. If all this money is going to the water and sewer authorities, we’ll be on the outside looking in again.”

Costas presentation to council is scheduled for the Wed., November 2 Post Agenda meeting at 1 p.m.

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