Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fayette Another Grant Program Cause We're Distressed

Unfortunately, most taxpayers are just too busy working 12 hours or two jobs to pay for increasing taxes and really don't notice when another redistribution of taxes scheme comes along.

Grants from state government are taxpayers monies. Keystone Opportunity zones are virtually tax-free zones for a period of years.

The memo-of-understanding is the local taxing bodies agreeing to waive or exempt for a period of time some taxes for the chosen who will locate, or re-locate, from one end of the county to the zone.

The KIZ is another venue for one business to be forgiven taxes in some measure while another pays and pays and pays...

Meanwhile, taxpayers still pay for maintenance of a ferry boat which services primarily state correctional institution employees. How is this cost effective?

Keystone Innovation Zone on county agenda
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 05/23/2007

The Fayette County commissioners will vote today on ratifying a partnership with Fay-Penn Economic Development Council regarding the Fayette/Washington Keystone Innovation Zone, a program designed to promote and foster collaboration among institutions of higher education, their surrounding communities and local businesses.

The commissioners were sent a letter earlier this month by Fay-Penn President/CEO Michael Krajovic asking them to sign a memorandum of understanding in support of officially establishing the KIZ, which when established, can receive up to $750,000 in grant funds.

Although the item is on today's agenda, it is a ratification since two of the three commissioners have already signed off on it. Commissioners Vincent A. Vicites and Joseph A. Hardy III have already given their written approval, while Commission Chairwoman Angela M. Zimmerlink has not.

According to an official Web site, the idea behind the program is for the Department of Community and Economic Development to provide grant funds to community/university partnerships to generate job growth through tech transfer and entrepreneurship. It is focused around campuses and the property near colleges and universities.

Vicites said he is in support of the program because Fayette has to compete with other counties across the state for similar state programs and he doesn't see anything wrong in supporting such a venture.

"We have to have every incentive available to attract jobs," Vicites said. "If we don't get involved with the KIZ, we won't have the opportunity other counties do."

Vicites said the KIZ program, through the state DCED, is a great opportunity involving higher education, which is designed to expand and develop employment efforts. Vicites said a study is being done first and signing the memorandum is a step in the process to support the effort.

Zimmerlink said Wednesday she is against the program and others like it, saying it has been proven that these programs do not work. "Gov. Rendell's economic development stimulus program for Pennsylvania continues to fail. These programs take money from us the taxpayers and then the government and bureaucratic agencies redistribute it to others as they see fit, under the guise of economic development," Zimmerlink said.

"Under both the Democratic and Republican leadership, Pennsylvania has been one of the top five states in spending in these economic development schemes yet continues to rank in the bottom five in growth yet they continue down this path," added Zimmerlink.

Zimmerlink said the KIZ is "just another corporate welfare program, which gives tax breaks to selected businesses and now adds the colleges and universities to share in the money after the economic development agencies get their share."

As she has in the past, Zimmerlink said endeavors to bring jobs should be spent on other efforts. "Rather than continuing to redirect our tax dollars to these proven ineffective taxpayer subsidized programs, our governor and state legislators need to lower taxes for all Pennsylvania businesses and individuals because we can decide for ourselves how best to spend and invest our money," Zimmerlink said.

A spokesman for Joseph A. Hardy III said Hardy had no comment, but will be available today to discuss the issue.

Once approved, the KIZ partnership will include Fay-Penn, Penn State Fayette, California University of Pennsylvania, Washington and Jefferson College, Fayette and Washington counties and the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Washington.

Krajovic said Wednesday that program was launched five years ago by the state through the DCED. Krajovic said to date, Fay-Penn has received $25,000 in matching funds in addition to $25,000 from the state for a planning grant for a KIZ.

Krajovic said Fay-Penn has been seeking memorandums of understanding from businesses, legislators and other agencies in preparation for submitting an application for "full designation" of a KIZ. He said the application would be sent as soon as possible...

Back zone
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fayette County commissioners voted Thursday to support Fay-Penn Economic Development Council's partnership in creating a Fayette-Washington Keystone Innovation Zone.
Commissioner Vince Vicites said the collaboration of local companies and colleges will benefit the county, while board Chairwoman Angela Zimmerlink lamented that similar programs funded by state grant tend not to work.

Commissioner Joe Hardy did not give his opinion about the topic during the public meeting.

A Keystone Innovation Zone offers grants through the state Department of Community and Economic Development to generate job growth through the tech fields...

...Commissioners also approved a contract Thursday with Campbell Transportation, of Charleroi, for an inspection of the Fredericktown Ferry.

Fayette will split the $57,000 cost with Washington County.

Each county pays half of the cost to operate the century-old ferry, which crosses the Monongahela River.

Ridership surveys have shown the ferry has been a popular mode of transportation for employees of Fayette's State Correctional Institution at Luzerne Township since its opening in August 2003...

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