Discussions took a broad political turn Monday when Borough Council reviewed a list of proposed legislative priorities for the upcoming year.
Compiled by the National League of Cities and the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the priorities represent the council’s goals for legislation that directly relates to the governance of the borough and other municipalities. They include larger national issues, such as immigration and education, and smaller local challenges like tax reform and urban revitalization.
Council was asked Monday to review the priorities in preparation for a meeting with state and national representatives during an NLC conference scheduled for March.
Councilman Peter Morris agreed on supporting immigration reform, saying immigrants “are real residents in our community. They’re people and they deserve respect and justice.”
Morris objected to proposed reforms to collective bargaining and municipal public safety pensions proposed by the PML.
According to the PML priorities list, the league partnered with the business community to form the Coalition for Sustainable Communities. The CSC recommends amending Act 111, the Police and Fireman Collective Bargaining Act, to “reset the standards and level the playing field to meet today’s fiscal realities,” along with reforming public safety pensions.
After some research, Morris said, he learned the CSC contains no unions or environmental organizations, claiming it basically supports a corporate agenda.
“What this is saying publicly is that running a municipality is a kind of business,” he said, “and most of us think that it’s not.”
Morris said he would not vote for supporting the priorities if those two were included.
Mayor Elizabeth Goreham agreed with Morris, saying the Democratic legislative caucus has declined to endorse a collective bargaining change.
Council President Jim Rosenberger voiced his support for certain tax reforms, including a priority to invest in local transportation and local tax reform.
“The federal government hasn’t raised fuel taxes in about two decades,” he said. “Everyone talks about global warming, but no one is willing to do the most reasonable thing — tax carbon. Or at a minimum raise gas and fuel taxes.”
He also said local tax reform should take a priority within the state to expand local fiscal authorities.
The only revenue options the borough has are through local revenue and real estate taxes, he said. Reform would give the option on raising the taxes on the sale of alcohol.
“Given that half our police calls are related to alcohol usage and misusage, (the borough) could make a big push with our legislators locally,” he said.
Council will review the priorities and vote at a later date.
In other business, Rosenberger publicly thanked Penn State President Eric Barron for his investment into the State College community.
According to a Sunday opinion piece by Barron, Penn State will invest $30 million into the economic development of the community, including “a one-time, startup and capital investment as well as annual funding of more than $5 million.”