There's hope yet for a York City CRIZ designation this year.
Expedited designations of City Revitalization Improvement Zones, which became a bit of a political football during the state Legislature's budget process this summer, have been added to the same bill that would allow York County to raise its hotel tax rate from 3 to 5 percent and fund Philadelphia schools with a tax on cigarettes.
House Bill 1177 passed the Senate and House last week. Now, with the ability to amend the proposal, state senators have added CRIZ to the bill, state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said.
The language the senators used is the same language they'd included in the fiscal code — which was later nixed by the state House Rules Committee, Schreiber said.
If the Senate's version of the tax bill passes, the state would award CRIZ designations to three cities in 2014 and two more in 2015,
However, Schreiber said, HB 1177 will return to the House before it becomes law. CRIZ could be removed when the House returns to session in August, he said.
"I remain optimistic on CRIZ. The fact that it continues to be part of the conversation is positive," Schreiber said. "It shows not only that there is an interest on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, to see CRIZ expanded and hopefully expedite a few more designations."
The program: York was one of five cities that competed last year for the first two CRIZ designations. The program aims to attract business and jobs to cities by offering developers state and city tax revenue to pay off project debt. Lancaster and Bethlehem earned the state's blessing to create the first zones.
The legislation that created CRIZ establishes a possible second round of designations for 2016, followed by one designation each year after that.
But several legislators, including Schreiber and others from York County, have been working to speed up the process.
For example, a bipartisan coalition backed House Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor's bill that would have given two more Pennsylvania cities a chance at the designations this year.
A proposal in the state Senate would have authorized the creation of 15 additional zones before 2016.
Meanwhile, York's CRIZ authority has been holding public meetings each month to prepare for the next round of applications.
Even if the House and Senate agree to expedite the designation process through HB 1177, "it doesn't say York gets one," Schreiber said.
"It's just increasing the number of designations that can occur. But obviously York was well positioned in the first round and hopefully would be in the second round," he said.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.