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Harrisburg – October 26, 2017 – State Senators Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) announced today (October 26th) passage of a gaming expansion bill that will provide critical funding to local municipalities in Lehigh and Northampton Counties as well as other economic development and community projects in the Lehigh Valley.
This legislation (House Bill 271, which is on the way to the Governor for his signature, was necessary to guarantee the host city and county for the Sands Casino, along with other municipalities adjacent to the casino, continue to receive funding through the Local Share Agreement following a court decision to throw out similar language in a previous gaming bill.
“This money is critical to the City of Bethlehem,” Senator Boscola said, in reference to the $9 million the city receives each year. “Without this funding, the taxpayers of Bethlehem would face major tax increases or significant cuts in services. “Throughout the consideration of the gaming bill, I heard from municipal leaders who inquired about the local share because they were concerned about the way gaming dollars are distributed.”
“These funds are used for vital safety and community needs, including police, fire and emergency services,” Senator Browne said. “When the original gaming legislation was written, there was an understanding that there would be local impact to cities hosting or surrounding a casino. These funds ensure there are resources available to local municipalities to handle that impact.”
Along with the local share fix, Senators Boscola and Browne worked with their colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives to help fund regional economic development projects through the gaming expansion bill, including the Banana Factory which was discussed this past summer, and funding expected to be used for the creation of a new Da Vinci Science and Technology Center at its new location in the City of Easton.
“This extraordinary commitment is a tremendous win for the Lehigh Valley, and I am beyond proud to have worked with my colleagues to be part of this enormous benefit for the entire region,” Boscola said.
The bi-partisan effort secured $2 million in annual funding from the Gaming Economic Development & Tourism Fund, which is scheduled to start in Fiscal Year 2019/20, and continue for a period of 10 years to construct a science and education center in the Lehigh Valley.
“It was important for a region of the size of the Lehigh Valley to secure funding for a regional project that the Lehigh Valley delegation can collectively advance that will further the continued success and growth of this region,” Senator Browne said.
Funding for the Banana Factory will come from the local share component of the gaming bill. The money will help pay for upgrades to the facility, with the total cost of the project estimated at $18 million. When the project is completed, the Banana Factory will include arts-based preschool and early childhood development programming, creating another people-driver to South Bethlehem.
Besides re-establishing the local share agreement and providing funding to important Lehigh Valley economic development projects, this gaming legislation also continues the committee to stabilize the lottery fund, which provides vital services and programs to seniors, and to provide property tax relief.
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