By Derek Snyder (Pennsylvania Legislative Services)
Several state senators and representatives held a press conference this morning alongside the Growing Greener Coalition to support a $50 million funding investment into the Growing Greener III program.
Rep. Alex Charlton (R–Delaware) began by issuing his support for Growing Greener III and urging Rep. John Maher (R–Allegheny), the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee chairman, to schedule a vote through his committee for SB 799, which was introduced by Sen. Rich Alloway (R–Franklin).
“Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air, pure water, and conservation of our natural resources,” said Rep. Charlton, who expressed that scheduling the SB 799 vote would secure those continued rights for future generations. Rep. Charlton noted that Growing Greener has helped Pennsylvania’s communities in addressing critical environmental priorities, which include conserving land and water resources, restoring damaged waterways and lands, and creating prosperous and sustainable communities. Rep. Charlton urged the General Assembly to commit $50 million annually to help support these priority initiatives and leverage federal matching dollars that Pennsylvania currently does not receive. Rep. Charlton made note of HB 2485, the companion bill to SB 799, which has 109 sponsors in the House, including himself.
Larry Williamson, chairman of the Growing Greener Coalition, expressed the efforts his group has been making for almost a decade to achieve a fully funded Growing Greener III program. A fully funded program would cost $300 million annually to address the conservation, recreation, and preservation projects and programs needed throughout Pennsylvania, said Williamson. While a fully funded program may not be currently possible within the budget, added Williamson, the $50 million down payment for this year would offer immediate support to the coalition’s programs. “With the down payment, the General Assembly will take an important step in improving the quality of life of all Pennsylvanians, especially future generations,” said Williamson.
Sen. Tom Killion (R–Delaware) recognized that the budget would not be able to include the full $300 million needed to fully fund the Growing Greener III program, but encouraged others to offer bipartisan support to fund the $50 million down payment investment along with his bill, SB 705. “There’s no argument, no argument at all about the success of Growing Greener I and Growing Greener II. The problem is they’re out of funds,” added Sen. Killion.
Rep. Rob Matzie (D–Beaver) opened, “safeguarding our land, our water, and natural resources is essential to maintaining a healthy and thriving economy.” Rep. Matzie noted that his focus is on three main areas of importance to western Pennsylvania, which includes abandoned mine restoration, brownfield reclamation, and historical preservation. “Growing Greener has proved that a smart, commonsense investment in our environment can yield economic benefits and spur job growth”, said Rep. Matzie.
Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R–Delaware) pushed that “Growing Greener is one of the greatest success stories to come out of this General Assembly,” while noting the bipartisan commitment involved in creating a better environment and economy because of this program. Sen. McGarrigle discussed how there has been a decline in Growing Greener funding, even though the need for clean water, parks, trails, and other recreational opportunities continues to increase.
Rep. Hal English (R–Allegheny) highlighted that his support for Growing Greener III stems from his family’s love and appreciation for Pennsylvania’s outdoors and precious resources that they developed when they first moved to the Commonwealth in 1991. “We just need to preserve it, and we need to protect it, and we need to work and start by getting some funding to continue Growing Greener III,” added Rep. English.