Important State Budget Revenue Decisions Remain

Below is text of the message sent to members of the General Assembly as they consider the revenue component of the state budget.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council thanks the many Democratic and Republican Members who opposed the proposed raid on Growing Greener.  However, we remain very concerned with proposals under discussion that would largely empty DCNR’s portion of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (“Keystone Fund”) used by land trusts to conserve open space, and would divert Oil & Gas Lease Fund monies in a manner that harms DCNR’s ability to manage our State Parks and State Forests.  These raids would be enabled via the Fiscal Code bill, likely Senate Bill 1042, that must be passed as part of the budget.

The Keystone Fund is DCNR’s primary source of funding for conservation and recreation grants.  Our understanding is that administration and legislative leaders are considering a proposal to empty a substantial portion of the Keystone Fund used by land trusts for conservation of properties with significant recreational, ecological, and other values.  The funds must be matched by local sources, so raiding these funds will pull the plug on significant, high value, multi-year conservation projects that often have substantial local participation and investment.

The 2010-11 budget contains serious cuts to DCNR’s operating budget, especially State Parks operations and State Forest operations which will be cut by 30 percent. To maintain vital programs and services at State Parks, keep forest roads open, and allow the effective management of logging and gas drilling, the department will need to access revenues from the Oil & Gas Lease Fund which gets its revenue from drilling in our State Forests. However, budget negotiators are reportedly discussing diverting more of the Oil & Gas Lease Fund for other purposes.

We urge you to oppose these raids in the Fiscal Code bill.