Onorato lobbies for approval of slots bill to expedite arena
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Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato is pressing state legislators to approve a slots-related bill critical to the funding of a new arena before they recess for the summer.
Mr. Onorato has been talking to legislators about approving a bill that would authorize spending from a "gaming economic development fund" that gets 5 percent of the gross revenue raised each year from slot machines, spokesman Kevin Evanto said yesterday.
The spending is critical to a deal that state and local leaders reached with the Penguins in March to build a new arena and keep the team in Pittsburgh.
Gov. Ed Rendell has committed $7.5 million annually for 30 years from the fund as part of the financing for the arena. Pittsburgh casino license winner Don Barden has committed another $7.5 million a year.
The Penguins' share starts at $3.6 million a year but could go up by $500,000 annually if the team decides to build a parking garage as part of the arena complex.
The Legislature's failure to approve the measure authorizing the spending before it recesses could affect a $325 million bond issue for the project and jeopardize the start of construction.
"This has to happen or it could delay the arena construction," Mr. Evanto said. "It's critical to get the funding [authorized] or else construction could get delayed."
The arena isn't the only project that could be affected. Millions also are earmarked from the fund for expansion of the convention center in Philadelphia.
The fund was created in the 2004 slots law.
There are fears that the authorization bill could be delayed or lost in the ongoing battle over the state budget. The new state fiscal year starts Sunday, but it's uncertain whether Mr. Rendell and state legislative leaders can reach a budget agreement by then.
The Legislature typically recesses for the summer after a new spending plan has been approved.
First Published June 27, 2007 11:23 pm