The following is the content of a letter to each of the PA Senators. The Senate has scheduled a Rules Committee meeting on Monday, September 18 to consider HB 453, the Fiscal Code bill that contains the raids. What the Senate will decide is unclear.
Access a current list of open DCNR grants arranged by House and Senate Districts here.
Call your Senator as soon as possible; find the contact information here.
Share this information with your fellow stakeholders, and ask them to do the same.
You should oppose transfers from special funds to balance the budget for the following reasons:
1. The funds under consideration are not "surplus," but contractually purposed investments in communities throughout the Commonwealth. The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) are dedicated resources that protect our natural and built environments, leverage local investments, and create and sustain Pennsylvania jobs. Support their purposeful use!
2. These dedicated funds infuse additional capital from other sources into the local economy. By leveraging local matches and attracting business investments, they stimulate economic growth, protect and enhance a safe and clean environment, and promote social equity and stability. A study on the Keystone Fund demonstrated that for every dollar invested in land and water conservation, seven dollars in goods and services is returned to the economy. Vote to boost our economy!
3. These funds are not only critical to their devoted purposes, but are profoundly insufficient to the need. Such investments directly address the needs of safeguarding and improving citizens' lives. On average, these public funds can meet less than half of what is annually requested. If a severance tax is considered as part of the budget revenue package, at least 25 percent should be directed to ESF-and the previously Senate-passed environmental provisions should be removed. Enable more, not less!
4. The purpose and use of these funds is overwhelmingly supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers. A recent survey found that a majority believe the state should increase its permanent source of funding for park and recreation opportunities. Moreover, another poll found that 91 percent of Pennsylvanians would support increasing state funds to conserve and protect open space, clean water, natural areas, wildlife habitats, parks, historic sites, forests, and farms. Heed the voice of the citizens!
5. Reneging on existing contracts would stiff Pennsylvania citizens with millions in unreimbursed state bills. Hundreds of communities, public-private partnerships, businesses, and nonprofits may be forced to default on their crucial improvement projects, many of them years in development. Such a shortsighted offense against the public would create far-reaching impacts extending well beyond one fiscal year. The General Assembly's treachery would denigrate your own integrity-and damage the state's credit, credibility and competitiveness. Do not allow it!
The Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, representing 2000 professional members, is a programmatic partner of the PA DCNR, helping to carry out the mission of the department. If the Commonwealth withdraws already committed funding, the financial hit to this nonprofit could severely compromise its own future. The 2018 Pennsylvania Greenways and Trails Summit, cohosted by PRPS and DCNR, to be held next week in Reading, could financially ruin PRPS.
This cannot be!
6. To do otherwise is politically untenable. Consider the consequences of such reckless irresponsibility in raiding these special funds. See the attachment for a current list of DCNR grants to recipients in your own Senatorial District with payments remaining, as well as those with pending applications for grants based on funds to be awarded this year. Especially note who they are for and for how much. You cannot afford it!
Please oppose transfers from special funds to balance the budget. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.
Tim Herd, CPRE
Chief Executive Officer
Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society
enc: itemization of funds purposed for projects in your Senatorial District