Governor Wolf’s budget proposal would strip tens of millions of dollars away from tangible project investments in order to fund general government operations. Tax receipts were wisely dedicated to the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund in 1993 and the Environmental Stewardship Fund in 1999 (and again in 2002) in continuation of Pennsylvania’s tradition of investing in its communities, redressing the environmental damage of the past, and respecting our generations yet to come.
Keystone and ESF come nowhere near to meeting present demand. Roughly half of all project investment proposals must be turned away. In the case of DCNR Keystone investments, 46% of projects are rejected for lack of sufficient state funds. And these rejections only represent a portion of unmet demand because grant applicants greatly self-limit their submissions knowing that competition for scarce dollars is fierce. Further, even for those projects funded, DCNR is only able to fund 85% on average of each request (and those requests already are generally limited to 50% of total project costs).
Pennsylvania’s environmental funding needs are huge. Pressing water issues—from water quality investments needed for the Susquehanna and Chesapeake and Pennsylvania’s other water basins to municipal stormwater management and flood reduction measures—hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars are needed in the coming years. The Keystone Fund delivers $7 in flood control and prevention, water treatment, and other natural services for every dollar invested. (See Pennsylvania’s Return on Investment in the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and other studies in the Economic Benefits section of https://conservationtools.org.) Now is the time to see how Pennsylvania’s dedicated environmental funds can deliver more, not less, in project investments.
The Governor’s budget proposal threatens to upend more than two decades of bipartisan consensus on the need to maintain the dedication of the Keystone Fund and ESF so that they may consistently invest in projects that deliver today and will continue delivering for future generations. The Growing Greener Coalition asks the Governor to rethink the Administration’s strategy and for the General Assembly to reject this proposal.