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Distressed no more: Scranton exits Act 47

Scranton is no longer considered financially distressed. The Electric City got that label from the state almost exactly 30 years ago.

SCRANTON, Pa. — A signature sent Scranton into a new era. The order signed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development put an end to Scranton's financial oversight by the state under a law known as Act 47.

Scranton was first dubbed "distressed" on January 10, 1992, after a vote from city council. Gerald Cross from the Pennsylvania Economy League was tasked with looking over Scranton's finances.

"I didn't think we'd be here today in a happy way for a while. I thought it would have a different ending, but the last ten years really changed the story," Cross said.

Cross says political infighting during the city's first two decades under Act 47 hindered the process. Scranton is one of only 16 Pennsylvania municipalities to exit Act 47 successfully. Only a handful have been distressed longer than 30 years.

"It never really ends. Today marks a milestone. The process never really ends in any city. It's continuous. You have to continue to work on improving. You have to continue to work on delivering services. I think the formula is in place," said Dave Bulzoni, a former business administrator for the city.

This ending means Scranton will lose some support from the state.

"I think it's going to be a challenge because some things go away when we lose this status, as far as help is concerned. But, you know what, though? It's time to take the training wheels off," said Wayne Evans, a former Scranton mayor.

"I think the learner's permit phase is over. I think the city has great capacity. They can pay their bills now, which means you can focus on the future," said Cross.

Much of Scranton's future success has to do with perception, according to current Mayor Paige Cognetti.

"To be able to not have that distressed status, to be trying to recruit people to come work here, recruit businesses to come here, not have a Google search that says we're a distressed city, it's an enormous lift off our shoulders," said Cognetti. "It's an improvement for our brand. And after 30 years, it really is a good day."

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