A bill that would have created a fund to help pay for the renovation of historic buildings was left on the cutting room floor during final state budget negotiations last week.

But advocates of the measure, which at least one Pottstown official has recognized as being potentially valuable to revitalization efforts in the borough, have vowed to bring it back to the table.

"It's likely we'll try to resurrect this in the Legislature in January so it can be included in the governor's budget proposal in February," said Judy Schwank, a former Berks County commissioner and now the executive director of the advocacy group 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.

"Still, it is so important to older communities, like Pottstown and Birdsboro and Phoenixville, so we're very disappointed it was not put on the books this year," she said.

"We don't fault the legislators. We applaud their efforts to make Pottstown's older towns and cities more viable," said Schwank.

As it now stands, the program would provide grants to residential properties for as much as $15,000 per project, whereas historic commercial properties would qualify for a tax credit of as much as $500,000 per project.

Terri Lampe, Pottstown's economic development director, said the law would have greatly benefited Pottstown, which is chock-full of historic buildings, both commercial and residential.

"I think it's great that 10,000 Friends has been pushing for this and I'm glad to hear they're going to try again next year," Lampe said. "I know they've been trying for a while."

Pottstown runs a county-funded program which offers no-interest loans to residents who reduce rental units in former single-family homes make them once again single-family residences.

She said the proposed state program, if enacted, would have worked hand-in-hand with the borough program and helped to restore many of Pottstown's historic homes and commercial buildings.

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said the measure was "tabled in the Senate" because the budget on which Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature agreed did not include the $15 million needed to make it work.

"There was no way to fit an amount like that into a very tight budget," said Rafferty, who supports the bill along with nearly the entire Senate.

He said while the bill is "still active" and could be brought up for consideration in September, without money in the budget, the chances of its success would be limited.

Rafferty said plans by 10,0000 Friends and its coalition of groups supporting the measure to have it re-introduced in January would probably provide its best hopes of passage.

"I think there's a very good chance of that happening," Rafferty said.

The bill will need a new champion. State Rep. Thomas A. Tangretti, a Westmoreland County Democrat, has been the bill's sponsor for years, but he is retiring this year, Rafferty said.

Tangretti's bill was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives last July and adopted by the Senate this summer.

A spokeswoman for Rendell said he supports the bill in principle.

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