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Northeast PA Could See Stall in Funding for Economic Development

Kevin Zwick, NEPA Correspondent

The attitude of the 2010 mid-term election cycle could be summed up into one phrase: “Throw the bums out!”

Unfortunately for NEPA, some of the “bums” were powerful politicians who effectively delivered state and federal funding to the region for infrastructure projects as well business and economic development.

The northeast region lost four powerhouse lawmakers who were in positions to allocate funding for key economic development and infrastructure projects.

Aa majority of voters in the region chose Republican Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) and other conservatives, who, along with Republican legislators nationwide, plan to reduce spending and have pledged to crack down on earmarks.

Two longtime incumbent federal legislators, Rep. Paul Kanjorski and Senator Arlen Specter, were voted out of office during the anti-incumbent tidal wave election in 2010. The region also lost the political clout of two powerful state Senators, Robert Mellow (D-22) and Rafael Musto (D-14), both of whom resigned in light of two separate federal investigations.

Muhlenberg College pollster Christopher Borick, Ph.D, said the region saw its political clout tumble with the 2010 election and retirements in the State Senate.

“Kanjorski, Mellow and Musto were about as senior as they come in their elective bodies and thus held some considerable power,” he told “Kanjorski in particular was in a very advantaged position in the House over the past four years when the Dems were in control.”

Ed Mitchell, a political consultant who worked extensively with Kanjorski over the years, said it will be clear “relatively soon” how much the region will miss Kanjorski in Washington.

“He brought more taxpayers monies from the Capital back home than any congressman the 11th District has had,” Mitchell said.

“In addition to earmarks and direct grants he secured, he was a source of information for local groups in NEPA to attempt to get other government grants on their own,” he added. “His departure, along with that of other local leaders who left office this year, will make times tough for state and local governments in PA.”

The region may have received a taste of what’s to come from a more conservative House after the $1.27 trillion 2011 Omnibus Spending bill was scrapped in December.

The Scranton Times-Tribune reported that the region lost nearly $10 million in federal funding for projects such as finishing touches on flood control projects in Scranton and Olyphant, and also $1 million for The Commonwealth Medical College.

The funding was also allocated for infrastructure work at a business park in Jessup and job training programs, the Times-Tribune reported.

Although Republicans Marino and Barletta are in the majority, don’t count on them bringing home the bacon anytime soon.

“Their lack of seniority and their pledges on matters like earmarks will have a negative impact on economic development funds coming to the region,” Borick said.

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