CAMP HILL — Speakers at this year’s South Central Pennsylvania Regional Summit held true to the event’s theme, “New Takes on Old Issues,” with Gov. Tom Wolf promising change and the introduction of a new public-private housing finance program designed to attract residents to the region.
The 19th gathering of some 100 regional leaders took place Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg, Camp Hill. The South Central Assembly is a regional nonprofit planning organization encompassing Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.
The theme of change was mirrored in the remarks of keynote speaker Wolf and in the introduction of a new public-private partnership for community development financing, Local Housing Investment Fund & Trust Programs of South Central Pennsylvania, or LHIFT.
Cumberland County Commissioner Jim Hertzler introduced Wolf at the summit, saying the governor has demonstrated in the first three months in office that "he is a different kind of politician, a different kind of leader, because his is an agenda that really does challenge the mediocrity of the status quo that is focused on making Pennsylvania the best that it can be, that understands that in order to move our state forward, we've got to put our heads together instead of banging them together."
Wolf said the region shares many of the same challenges as the commonwealth.
“We’re trying to make lives and communities better,” the governor said. “It’s tough to do both at the same time. I have two daughters, both talented, and neither is in Pennsylvania. I want them to come back.”
In order to make Pennsylvania and its south central region “a magnet” to others, Wolf said, “we need jobs to pay, schools to teach and a government that works.”
Wolf outlined proposed changes in corporate income tax, tax credits and closing tax loopholes that would “that set the table for economic growth.”
“I want to bring manufacturing back here,” he said. “We’re close to the market, and we have the skills and workforce.”
Wolf said he also wants “to bring money back to education,” noting that 25,000 educators have been laid off from Pennsylvania schools in the past five years due to budget cuts. He wants to expand pre-K funding by 75 percent, as well as provide more funding to community colleges.
The state’s current method of funding public schools largely through local property taxes, Wolf said, is a “hugely unfair system of funding education” with a gaping disparity between poor and affluent districts.
Wolf is proposing initiating a new severance tax that would place a levy on the state’s natural resources. Several states, including Texas and Alaska, already have such taxes in place for oil and other natural resources.
Also on Wednesday, Ray D’Agostino, a member of the Summit Planning Committee and chief executive officer of the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership, announced the formation of LHIFT.
The regional revolving loan fund was developed to “attract investment from the community” with tax-deductible and Community Reinvestment Act credit-eligible contributions and investment loans, D’Agostino said The program makes flexible, low-interest loans available within Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.
“It’s for the creation and preservation of affordable housing for multifamily or homes,” D’Agostino said.
Officials said that affordable local housing is a key to attracting residents to the region.
The program has been provided with $1.5 million in seed money from “heavy lifters” Fulton Bank, PNC Bank, Susquehanna Bank, the Steinman Foundation and the Lancaster County Community Foundation.
“This is all part of an initial investment to provide affordable housing for low- to moderate-income customers,” said Kali Karomfily, assistant vice president of Susquehanna Bank. “By investing in our neighbors, we invest in each other.”
D’Agostino said that program organizers are working to have LHIFT up and running by July 1. Organizers plan to seek other donors with a goal of attaining $2.5 million in funds by the end of the year, as well as applying for Community Development Financial Institution assistance from the U.S. Treasury in the fall.