Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 22. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session in September.
State Representative Glen Grell, R-Cumberland, said a recent downgrading of Pennsylvania’s general obligation bonds requires the General Assembly to solve the unfunded liability portion of the state’s public pension system to prevent further hits to the state’s credit rating.
Grell has been leading the effort in the state House of Representatives to find a solution to an unfunded liability level in the state and public teacher pension systems that is approaching $50 billion.
On July 23, Fitch Ratings downgraded Pennsylvania’s general obligation bonds from AA+ to AA, which means it will now be more expensive for the state government to issue such bonds, as interest rates will be increased.
In announcing its downgrade, Fitch cited the unfunded liability of the state’s two pension systems, as well as lack of sufficient monetary reserves.
“The recent action by the bond rating agency further emphasizes the need to adopt a long-term, comprehensive approach in addressing the funding shortfalls in our pension systems,” Grell said.
Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation to allow more time for completion of flexible residential communities.
The new law, Act 37, extends the time limitation for withdrawal or completion of flexible condominium and planned community projects from the current seven years to 10 years or, in cases when a project is to be completed in phases, not more than 120 days after each section’s approval or denial by the municipality, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Representative Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon.
“We are finding that seven years is not always a sufficient amount of time for a developer to complete residential communities, particularly in a slow economy,” Gingrich said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the state’s new Office of Public-Private Partnerships (P3) said it will consider two of six proposals it received from private industry under P3 legislation signed by Corbett in 2012.
“We had a month-long period where industry could submit ideas,” said Erin Waters-Trasatt, a spokeswoman for the P3 office and PennDOT. “In four of the six, no specific projects were identified, just broad ideas.”
Waters-Trasatt said that in the future, the P3 office will reach out to private industry for help with new projects.
The P3 legislation sets guidelines for public-private partnerships in all areas, but most are expected to be new road and bridge construction and maintenance.
One of the proposals that will be sent to the P3 board was submitted by Paoli, Pa.-based Site Acquisition Services Inc. The proposal calls for working with the state Department of Transportation to identify and market PennDOT-controlled structures, such as bridges, signs, buildings and maintenance facilities, where wireless antennas and related equipment can be attached. The company would then market those opportunities to wireless service providers that may find those locations desirable to improve signals in the surrounding areas. PennDOT would receive a rental fee for the use of its facilities.
The other proposal being sent to the P3 board is from Bentley Systems Inc., in Exton, Pa. The proposal calls for PennDOT to replace its aging Automated Permit Routing Analysis System, used to issue special hauling permits, with the company’s commercially available turn-key system already deployed in neighboring states.
Corbett recently signed the following bills into law:
• S 591 amends the Fiscal Code further, providing for method of filing, transmission of money, corporate treasurers, loans and tax, fees, amounts payable to state institutions, assistance to municipalities, making an appropriation and repeals.
• S 725 provides appropriations to Pennsylvania State University for 2013-14. Included in the bill is the Pennsylvania College of Technology, which is affiliated with the university.
• S 726 provides appropriations to the University of Pittsburgh for 2013-14.
• S 727 provides appropriations to Temple University for 2013-14.
• S 728 provides appropriations to Lincoln University for 2013-14.
• S 729 provides appropriations to the University of Pennsylvania for 2013-14.