Freeman touts Wolf support of Main/Elm street programs in proposed budget

HARRISBURG, March 11 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, applauded Gov. Wolf's efforts to sustain the Main and Elm street programs within the state Department of Community and Economic Development in his proposed 2015-16 budget.

The governor has proposed to restore $15 million to the Keystone Communities program, which includes the Main and Elm street programs. Former Gov. Corbett had cut $21 million from the Keystone programs.

"It is encouraging to see how the administration values these programs," Freeman said. "In the last four years, the Keystone programs suffered devastating budget cuts, leaving insufficient funding to help rebuild communities.

"DCED Acting Secretary Dennis Davin today touted these programs during his participation in the House Appropriations Committee budget hearings and said it was important for Pennsylvania to rebuild these programs to allow businesses and communities to work together to help communities thrive.

"As Secretary Davin noted, these targeted investments can spur economic development and job creation," he said.

Freeman has been a supporter of the Main Street program, a program that provides grants to help revitalize downtown commercial districts, and is the author of the corresponding Elm Street program, which focuses on revitalizing older, neighboring residential areas adjacent to downtowns. He also is Democratic chairman of the House Local Government Committee.

"It's important to look at the whole picture for urban communities to succeed, and together, they foster urban revitalization. Main Street looks at creating healthy and stable commercial downtowns, while Elm Street focuses on the adjacent residential neighborhoods. I am pleased these programs are receiving attention from the governor."

Freeman noted that the added attention also might result in passage of his bill (H.B. 659) that would let communities extend their participation in the Main Street Program for up to five years.

"In many cases, the current five-year time frame to turn around a traditional downtown is too short. A community just begins to see the progress brought on by Main Street initiatives only to see the plug pulled prematurely, often causing the downtown's success to suffer," he said. "My bill would provide an additional few years of support to help sustain the revitalization momentum and better ensure success.

"The additional support provided for both Main Street and Elm Street in the state budget would allow many more communities to rebuild and thrive."