HARRISBURG, PA-While the economic boom of the ’90s slowed many of the widening economic disparities in Pennsylvania, one has kept growing–the gap between Pennsylvania’s cities and affluent suburbs, according to the Keystone Research Center’s annual report on the condition of Pennsylvania’s middle-class. The State of Working Pennsylvania 2002 shows that 18 of 22 Pennsylvania cities lost population in the 1990s, with Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre, Chester, and Johnstown each losing up to 15% of their population.

While Pennsylvania has suffered less than the nation in this downturn, according to the report, the area has still lost some 48,000 jobs over the last 12 months. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has risen from 4% to 5.4% since its low point in March 2000.

One of the report’s key recommendations to revitalize cities, inner suburbs, and towns is to adopt “smart-growth policies.” Specifically, the report calls for strengthening regional planning, implementing regional tax-based sharing, using state infrastructure and transportation dollars to combat urban and inner suburban decay. The report also callsfor more state funding for education to help stem the flight of population from overtaxed communities with cash-poor schools.

“Across the board,” says KRC Policy Analyst and report author David Bradley, “we need to reverse the `dumb growth’ state policies that now accelerate the downward spiral of Pennsylvania cities, towns, and inner suburbs.”

The recommendations are part of a 12-point Pennsylvania Postindustrial Opportunity Initiative aimed at bringing Pennsylvania policy into alignment with its 21st Century economy. The recommendations are also aimed at promoting policies to encourage businesses to “take the high road to profitability,” based on improving productivity, quality, the rate of innovation, and service.

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