South Hills enterprise professionals hear from lawmakers at legislative luncheon | Information

UPPER ST. CLAIR – Pronouncing the death of someone or something is not typically a surefire applause generator, except when it was something as roundly unpopular as the plan to toll the Interstate 79 bridge at the Bridgeville interchange.

“That project is dead,” state Sen. Devlin Robinson told about 50 members of the South Hills Chamber of Commerce gathered Aug. 18 at St. Clair Country Club for its annual legislative lunch. Once a burst of applause abated, the Bridgeville Republican continued, “It is dead. It’s not coming back.”

The possibility of the bridge being tolled in both directions to cover the cost of its refurbishment raised the ire of business owners in the South Hills, who feared it would damage economic development, raise their costs and increase traffic. In June, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court nixed the plan by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to toll the I-79 bridge and eight other interstate spans, saying the board that put the proposal forward did not engage in meaningful consultations with any of the communities surrounding the bridge .

Robinson added that he and other lawmakers were set to start looking at other ways to fund bridge repair and other infrastructure needs, including a potential tax on electric vehicles.

“We need to get them to pay their fair share as well,” Robinson said.

At the lunch, both Robinson and state Rep. Natalie Mihalek, a Peters Republican, outlined how the state’s Waterfront Development Tax Credit was expanded in Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget. The credit is given to businesses that develop waterfront properties. They both also pointed out how the budget that went into effect in July begins a multi-year process of lowering Pennsylvania’s corporate tax from almost 10% to almost 5%. Federal COVID-19 relief funds that have been placed in the rainy day fund will, according to Robinson, boost the commonwealth’s credit rating and increase its competitiveness.

Also at the lunch, Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor said county officials were going to start looking at how Pittsburgh’s downtown and other parts of the county have been changed by the switch to remote work. He noted that Squirrel Hill, an area he represented when he served on Pittsburgh City Council, now has many empty storefronts where there were once none.

District Judge Ron Arnoni of Bethel Park also discussed an initiative he is spearheading, LEAD, which stands for leadership, education, accountability and direction, and seeks to keep young people out of trouble.

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