Bipartisan Committee to Audit Allentown Tax Zone, Study Job Prep Programs Based on Coleman Resolutions

HARRISBURG – A bipartisan committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly today agreed to produce two reports based on measures introduced by State Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-16) – one that calls for an audit of the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) and another analyzing the effectiveness of Pennsylvania workforce development programs.

“Citizens need this kind of information to hold accountable their government,” Coleman said. “People want to know if their tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.”

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) will produce the two reports based on resolutions introduced by Coleman and approved by the Senate.

Coleman’s Senate Resolution 110 directs LBFC to conduct a performance audit of the NIZ and Allentown NIZ Development Authority programs administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Pennsylvania’s NIZ program was first established by law in 2009. State and local taxes collected within the NIZ are used to repay debt service and bonds issued by the Allentown NIZ Development Authority to fund various economic development projects within the zone, including the PPL Center arena.

More than $500 million has been invested in Allentown’s NIZ during the past decade.

While the authority allocated a lot of money, Pennsylvanians have no way of knowing if the NIZ has been an effective means of generating economic activity.

“The Allentown NIZ audit will give taxpayers their first significant look at how their hundreds of millions of tax dollars are being used by the authority,” Coleman said. “My goal is to give taxpayers the information they need to hold accountable an authority that is supposed to be serving and benefitting them.”

When the NIZ program first was established, estimates suggested it would have no negative impact on tax revenues. That conclusion assumed the NIZ would attract new economic development projects and businesses. The NIZ instead has in some cases resulted in businesses relocating from one municipality to another with no discernible net gain to the local economy.

“Taxpayers deserve to know if their money is being used to create jobs, or if it’s being given to companies that relocate from one part of town to another,” Coleman said. “Moving a company from one location to another doesn’t necessarily create jobs or grow our economy.”

Coleman’s Senate Resolution 169 directs the LBFC to study state workforce development programs and make suggestions to improve delivery of services to better help workers and employers. The resolution gives LBFC up to one year to produce its report.

Pennsylvania state government annually spends hundreds of millions of dollars on workforce development programs, but many unemployed workers lack the skills necessary to obtain good-paying jobs and employers struggle to find qualified applicants to fill open positions.

Pennsylvania operates several workforce development programs under the Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Education, Department of Human Services, and Department of Community and Economic Development.

“Despite the alphabet soup acronyms for various agencies and programs providing workforce development initiatives, we still have companies that can’t find qualified employees and workers who lack the necessary job skills,” Coleman said. “With all the money Pennsylvania spends on workforce development, companies should be able to fill positions and workers should be able to find jobs.”

LBFC is a bipartisan legislative agency serving the state House and Senate, and is composed of 12 members of the General Assembly. Coleman serves as one of LBFC’s members.

The committee, established in 1959, conducts studies and makes recommendations aimed at eliminating unnecessary state expenditures, promoting efficiency in state government, and assuring state funds are spent in accordance with legislative intent and law.

Coleman’s resolutions give LBFC up to six months to complete the NIZ audit and one year to complete the workforce development study.

Residents who want to learn more about Coleman can visit his website at, follow him on Facebook at and sign up for email newsletters at

CONTACT: Leo Knepper

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