New legislation to allow earlier CRIZ designations passes Senate

The Pennsylvania state Senate passed legislation on Tuesday aimed at improving a program designed to attract development, revitalize downtown areas and create jobs in the state's struggling cities.

Under the current program, applications for additional designations under the City Revitalization Improvement Zone (CRIZ) program - established in 2013 - will not be approved until 2016.

The proposal, H.B. 1177, will provide additional opportunities for cities to apply for designation: four new zones and up to three pilot zones between now and the end of 2015.

Pennsylvania Democrats largely supported the proposal, with a vote of 43-5. Sen. Sean D. Wiley said a CRIZ designation is an "economic game-changer" for Erie.

"It was imperative that my colleagues and I work together to ensure this language was inserted into this bill," Wiley said. "Last night's passage of HB 1177 in the Senate is an important first step. While this legislation still has to be approved by members of the House, I am cautiously optimistic that we will have a bill for the Governor to sign in the near future."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, a CRIZ is an area of up to 130 acres of designated parcels. All businesses within a CRIZ must complete annual state and tax reports by June 15 of each year so the state can designate the amount of taxes to be moved to the CRIZ fund.

State and local taxes collected within the zones that exceed a pre-designation tax baseline will be used towards debt service in an effort to stimulate economic development within the CRIZ.