FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Greg Vitali
Corbett proposal cuts $60 million in environmental funds
to balance the budget
HARRISBURG, Feb. 28 – Gov. Tom Corbett wants to use nearly $60 million dedicated for two popular environmental programs, the Growing Greener and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation funds, to fill holes in the state's 2012-13 budget.
Details about the transfers emerged during two House Appropriations Committee budget hearings held Tuesday.
During testimony by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan, committee members discussed the governor's proposal to take $38.58 million from the Keystone Fund and use it to help balance the budget. The fund provides money for state park and forest infrastructure improvements, as well as local recreation facilities, historic sites, zoos and public libraries.
DCNR, which oversees state parks and forests, has a $1 billion backlog of infrastructure projects, according to Allan.
"With this infrastructure backlog, we should not be diverting money from the Keystone Fund," said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, a member of the Appropriations Committee.
During testimony by Agriculture Secretary George Greig, the committee discussed the governor's proposal to take $20.48 million generated by a tax on cigarettes that is normally used to fund the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for the General Fund budget. The governor proposed shifting $20.48 from the Growing Greener Bond Fund to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund.
"This is nothing but a shell game," Vitali said. "It's a way to use Growing Greener bond money for the General Fund. Using bond money for operating expenses is bad public policy."
The Growing Greener Bond Fund was created by Act 45 of 2005 and approved by a voter referendum. As a result, the state sold $625 million in bonds and has used the money for projects that preserve natural areas and open spaces, clean rivers and streams, and address abandoned mines.
Budget hearings will continue until March 8. Sometime after, budget negotiations will begin between legislative leaders and the governor. A budget is due by June 30