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Shapiro's budget pitch could uplift rural areas

Plus: Don't miss Spotlight PA's free virtual event on the Whole-Home Repairs Program

This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

February 22, 2024
Inside this edition: How Gov. Shapiro’s budget pitch could affect rural communities, a free virtual event on the Whole-Home Repairs Program, and Penn State trustees drop “Paterno Field,” for now.
Real quick: Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal would give rural areas a boost to invest in housing, address gaps in health care, and market the outdoor landscape, Spotlight PA’s Marley Parish reports.

A little more: As the populations of Pennsylvania’s rural counties shrink, officials hope future state spending can help slow projected losses by making investments that attract new residents and support local economies.

The $48.3 billion spending plan unveiled by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro earlier this month earmarks funding for multiple sectors important to rural areas. With that money, rural communities could expand access to medical services, improve aging housing stock, and market the outdoor landscape to generate local revenue.

Republican lawmakers say the governor’s budget proposal is fiscally irresponsible. However, some county officials think the plan proactively addresses projected population declines outlined in a Center for Rural Pennsylvania report released last fall.

While not every county — especially those in the northeast, where officials say the report uses pre-pandemic data and doesn’t reflect growth — agrees with the forecast, government and education officials who testified during a January hearing on the predictions believe it’s accurate and hope that targeted investments can help them get ahead of the situation.

“I hate to use the cliché, but if you build it, they will come,” McKean County Commissioner Thomas Kreiner, who testified during last month’s hearing, told Spotlight PA. “We have to give, especially the younger people, a reason to want to stay here.”

Kyle Kopko, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s executive director, has encouraged policymakers to incorporate the report’s findings into local planning. Though the center doesn’t make direct policy recommendations, lawmakers sit on its board of directors.

State Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) told Spotlight PA through a spokesperson that expected population decline “is bigger than a one-time budget issue.”

“In fact, it might be a five or 10-year effort. I’m working with my colleagues on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania board to address some of these issues,” he said.

The full story: Read more here.
» What to know about Shapiro’s pitch to legalize marijuana, its chances in the Pa. legislature, and more

» Pennsylvania mortgage program, closed for more than a year to resolve backlog, will reopen in March, officials say

» HOME IMPROVEMENTS: Join Spotlight PA TONIGHT from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel discussion on the status and history of the Whole-Home Repairs program, and on how advocates want to see it improved. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

» A deficit of experienced voting officials could mean trouble for Pa.’s 2024 election

» A bill to legalize syringe services in Pa. just passed a historic hurdle, but GOP opposition remains

» Pa. election 2024: The state Senate races to watch as Democrats seek the majority

» Trustees drop proposal to name Penn State football field after Joe Paterno in heated meeting

» Shapiro wants to tax skill games. He must first navigate Pa.’s wealthy, warring gambling interests.
A February snow in Pine Grove Mills, Centre County, via Amy Z.

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Snow on the trees in Pine Grove Mills, Centre County
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» CDT: PSU trustees approve new compensation package for Bendapudi
» Courier Express: DuBois police chief put on paid leave

» SC: Developer again withdraws plan for Benner Township warehouse
» WPSU: Faculty Senate calls on Penn State for more info, involvement
» Collegian: PSU grad employees ‘alarmed’ by new budget model
» Mirror: RES Coal project to move forward in Hollidaysburg
» Wellsboro Gazette: $68M award to Tioga River restoration
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Feb. 22: The Clearfield Revitalization Corp. hosts “Not Your Grandma's Bingo” in downtown Clearfield.

» Feb. 23: Live music, Valentine’s themed piñatas, and vendors highlight Art After Dark at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art Altoona in Blair County.

» Feb. 23-24: Penn State Competitive Ballroom and Latin Dance hosts its Snowball on Penn State’s campus in Centre County.

» Feb. 23-25: Central Pennsylvania’s “largest outdoor camping adventure” takes over the Blair County Convention Center for the Pennsylvania Adventure RV Expo.

» Feb. 24: The 12th annual Rock the 80’s Concert at The State Theatre, in Centre County, benefits the Bob Perks Fund.

» Feb. 24-25: The Penn State Powwow, a celebration of “community and spirituality,” takes place at the C3 Sports Complex in Centre County.
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.
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