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Pat Brown Reflects on Pennsylvania Legislative Career

Pat Brown’s recent drive to Harrisburg on Interstate 78 took him past giant commercial companies, including Amazon, PetSmart and Dollar General’s distribution centers. .

When I first visited Harrisburg in 1995 as a newly appointed state legislator, there was only a brewery and an unfinished Nestlé facility there.

Browne saw that the region had become, in his words, “the heart of the Internet economy,” and thought he had just completed 28 years of public legislative activity.

“Hopefully I made a difference,” Brown, 59, said.

Many people in the Lehigh Valley and throughout the state would say he was.

An accountant and attorney before running for office, the Lehigh County native has become a Harrisburg institution in his 28 years.

His extraordinary ability to simultaneously grasp multiple political, financial, and practical legislative dynamics and chart a sensible course has made him a leader in legislative initiatives and the preparation of state budgets.

Those who worked closely with him called him a “wizard” and a political “genius”.

“He was the most effective legislator I ever worked with,” said Alan Jennings, who has been with the Lehigh Valley Community Action Commission for more than 40 years, including 30 as executive director. Told. “It’s amazing to me that he did what he did.”

At the same time, Brown has marginalized some with an approach that, at times, seems highly unnoticed and deliberately secretive. Several initiatives under his leadership first became known to the public shortly before or after crossing the political finish line.

Brown was fighting his own demons. Most recently he was charged with DUI in 2015, three times.

After his last offense, he was charged after his motorcycle crashed while exiting Interstate 78 at the Lehigh Street ramp. Brown was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposal Program because his last arrest was 16 years before him. Under the 2004 law change, arrest for drunk driving within 10 years is now considered a first offense.

Brown’s candidacy for the House of Representatives came in the 14th two-year Congress on Nov. 30 after losing the Republican primary in May to 32-year-old airline pilot and statewide newcomer Jarrett Coleman. Finished.

Brown’s most famous achievement is drafting the law that created the Neighborhood Improvement Zone in 2011. This kicked off a major redevelopment of his area in downtown Allentown, including a 10,000-seat hockey he arena, corporate offices, and multiple restaurants and retail stores.

In the 128-acre zone, all state and local tax revenues, except those generated by property taxes, can be utilized by owners to cover building debt for up to 30 years.

but brown Two-year effort by The Morning Call thwarted To obtain information about taxes paid within NIZ.

The right-to-know request filed by the Post seeks information from the State Department of Revenue regarding the total revenue generated by each tax collected in the NIZ from 2016 to 2018. The department denied the request, resulting in a lengthy series of open records office and court filings.

Ultimately, a federal judge said, citing language placed deep in the June 2021 114-page legislative bill, that records would be exempt from disclosure via an amendment written by Brown. Decided.

Brown also wrote the 2010 law that created the state’s Independent Finance Office, spearheaded efforts to reform the way Pennsylvania pays for education, and channeled millions of dollars to the impoverished Allentown school district.

In many cases, achievements were achieved with broad bipartisan support.

“He’s built a realm of agreement with people from the left to the right,” said Democratic Rep. Mike Schlossberg of South Whitehall Township.

Lori McFarland, who retired from Allentown School District after serving 30 years, said Brown was a political anomaly.

“He was an urban Republican who had every city problem. If he was going to represent voters, he had to come to a point where he had to really understand what was going on.” I didn’t,” said McFarland.

Brown’s loss to Coleman came at a time when his political position seemed stronger than ever.

He served 11 years in the state House of Representatives, 17 years in the Senate, chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and built a diverse and extensive fan network.

Coleman’s loss hit the Lehigh Valley like a political earthquake.

Coleman’s margin of victory in Senate 16th District (recently redrawn to include portions of both Lehigh and Bucks counties) was 24 votes.

Veteran Republican Senator David Argal of Schuylkill County called the result “historic” and said, “People will be talking about this election in Lehigh Valley for years to come.”

Brown said voters want to go in a different direction.

“There were definite differences between me and Senator Coleman,” he said. “I am someone who has been serving for many years and someone who has offered something new. And voters decided to go in that direction.”

Even though the incoming senators won’t be sworn in until January 3, it’s already clear that they want to do things differently.

Coleman recently said He may try to stop the sale of Allentown State Hospital Property Leading NIZ Developer City Center Investment Corporation

Brown wrote the original bill seeking the sale and is a longtime acquaintance of City Center leader JB Riley. He introduced the bill in mid-September, long after he lost to Coleman, in a sudden fashion that surprised other Valley lawmakers.

Coleman said it’s too early to say what Brown’s legacy will be.

Coleman said it would take many years before the winners produced by the Brown-led initiative would be known.

“Did they benefit the people of the Lehigh Valley?” Coleman said. “Or will it only benefit a select few?”

According to Coleman, the building boom within the 128-acre NIZ area has led to public proclamations that “Allentown is back.”

Coleman, who lives in Upper Mackenzie Township, said he feels Allentown is not returning, based on discussions with working-class voters.

“It’s getting more and more expensive to live there,” he said. “They feel this didn’t work for the average person.”

In a recent extensive interview, Brown, who has never spoken with Coleman, answered the obvious question: What’s next?

He said he would continue to publish the private law and accounting practices he has maintained since 1998.

“In terms of public service, there are some options that I’m considering and we’ll see what happens,” he said. I would like.”

Brown has demonstrated his financial and political expertise as the process of creating state budgets, year after year.

The 2022-23 budget, which was finalized in early summer, called for $45 billion in spending, along with more than $2 billion in the state’s Rainy Days Fund, bringing it to about $5 billion.

“One of the things I am proud of is that we survived the pandemic that has had a dramatic impact on our finances,” said Brown. He added that the latest budget puts the state in “I believe the state is in the strongest financial position in this generation.”

Some of the other achievements that Browne is proud of:

  • He and former Lucerne County Democratic Rep. Phyllis Mundy have been leaders in pushing for early childhood education establishment and funding in the state. Prior to their efforts, the state had no dedicated funding for early childhood education, which now totals $400 million a year, Brown said. “It’s no longer seen as a discretionary thing, it’s actually seen as a permanent part of our budget,” he said. thinking about.”
  • Brown was the leader of several committees designed to overhaul Pennsylvania’s education funding formula. They included the Basic Education Funding Committee, the Special Education Funding Committee, and the Higher Education Funding Committee. According to Brown, the general aim was to “recognise the value of fairness and equity” in education funding.
  • Brown’s tenacious lifelong effort to win money for the impoverished Allentown school district is widely recognized in the Capitol. Allentown Democratic Senator Nick Miller, a recent school board member, called Brown’s bipartisan effort “amazing.” Browne himself provided figures showing that the Allentown School District’s total basic education funding this year is more than his $172 million. This means that Allentown’s total population has grown by more than 538% over the past 25 years, the largest increase in the state.
  • Other areas in which Brown has played a key role include mortgage reform, addressing concerns about concussions suffered by young athletes, and casino revenue-sharing arrangements.

“He was a hard worker. He did a lot of great things for the Lehigh Valley.”

Brown said the rest of his personal story would not be written anywhere but in the Lehigh Valley.

“This is my home. I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Grow here, grow here, serve here, stay here.”

Wake-up call Capitol correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at: fturner@mcall.com.

https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/capitol-ideas/mc-nws-pa-pat-browne-exit-20221223-tl6zulebeffxrcumur6nxdv6ki-story.html#ed=rss_www.mcall.com/arcio/rss/category/news/pennsylvania/ Pat Brown Reflects on Pennsylvania Legislative Career

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