January 31, 2012

Democrats Lament Corbett's Lack Of Leadership On Transportation

Noting the six months of inaction since Gov. Tom Corbett's blue ribbon transportation commission released its final report, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) Tuesday joined county and legislative leaders in Pittsburgh to call on the governor to lead on transportation infrastructure and mass transit investment Pennsylvania.
            "On the eve of the six-month anniversary of the release of the recommendations from the governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, we are still awaiting a plan for transportation from Gov. Corbett," said Sen. Costa. "The governor's own transportation commission issued its report, and it is his responsibility to lead. We don't believe Pennsylvanians should have to wait any longer."
            "It has been more than a year since Tom Corbett became governor, and half a year since his commission gave him a detailed plan for transportation funding," said Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), the House Democratic Leader. "We are lucky that so far it's simply a matter of crumbling roads and weight-restricted bridges, but we are driving on borrowed time. If nothing is done, it will get much worse. Lives are at risk."
            Sen. Costa said PennDOT statistics show that there are more than six million trips daily across Allegheny County bridges that are rated either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, and more than 178,000 trips across bridges that have temporary supports or weight restrictions in place.
            Sen. Costa said an investment in infrastructure will create jobs. In 2010, Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the nation for job creation and has now slipped to 25th in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued last week.
            Last week, Senate Democrats also laid out their budget priorities in anticipation of another round of job-crushing cuts from the Corbett Administration during the governor's upcoming budget address. The Senate plan calls for creating jobs through investments in our economy for infrastructure development and improvements, as well as targeted training and education programs for a quality workforce.
            "Gov. Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission report laid out options for the governor to choose, including uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax and raising licensure fees to support investments in highways, bridges and mass transit," said Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair. "The time for studies, commissions, and conversing is behind us. It's time to act. I urge the governor to take action and indicate to the legislature how he wants to move forward."
            "Gov. Corbett can move our economy forward — or stall it if he provides leadership to address our well-documented transportation problems," said Rep. Joseph Markosek (D-Allegheny) Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
            Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), who serves as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and is a member of the state Transportation Commission, said "Pennsylvania's two biggest challenges right now are its crumbling transportation infrastructure and the stagnant economy. It has been months since the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission released its report and it's time for leadership from the administration on a plan that will keep drivers safe and keep commerce rolling."
            "We each know personally about the need for transportation funding," said Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), the House Democratic Caucus Chairman. "We know it as we swerve to avoid potholes, are forced to detour due to closed bridges, or wait in the cold for buses. Each individual story adds up to a story about our economic vitality. If we can't move goods and people around because our bridges won't bear the weight of trucks and our buses are idled, our economic growth will stall."
            Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission issued its report on August 1, 2011. The commission was tasked with indentifying an additional $2.5 billion annually to address the transportation funding shortfall. In addition to its funding proposal, the Commission made suggestions for modernizing transportation.
            The report noted that funding in Pennsylvania falls far short of needs, and points out specifically that the report is "about more than potholes—the issues at hand affect safety, our economy, and the environment, all of which shape the quality of life and ease of commerce in Pennsylvania."
            Sen. Costa and his legislative colleagues said they await word from the governor on how he wants to proceed, but more delay creates even more problems. Pennsylvania maintains the dubious distinction of having the highest number of structurally-deficient bridges in the country and the most miles of road in "poor" condition. An estimated 300 bridges are added to the structurally deficient list each year.

Ethics Commission: DPW Secretary's Consulting Business No Conflict

By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News
Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander's side business presents no conflict of interest problem with his Cabinet post, the State Ethics Commission ruled.  Click Here for full story.

Tuesday NewsClips

Speaker Files Federal Suit On PA Redistricting Dispute
Speaker Seeking Ruling On Past District Maps
Turzai: Redistricting Order Sooner Rather Than Later
Pileggi: Using 2011 District Lines For 2012 Is Unconstitutional
Editorial: State Waits for Court Explanation On Redistricting
Editorial: Weekend Voting Can Increase Turnout
Column: Corbett Administration Wants To Shred Safety Net
Op-Ed: Corbett's Food Stamp Asset Test Is Needless, Expensive
Op-Ed: PA Needs To Curb Food Stamp Abuse
Lawmakers Prepare For Tough Budget Message From Governor
Editorial: Build Revenue, Fairness
Lawyer Kicks Off Defense For DeWeese
DeWeese Was Figurehead Of Out Of Control Democratic Caucus
DeWeese Plans To Run Again If Acquitted At Trial
Witness: DeWeese Called For Inquiry
Mustio's In, Gastgeb's Out Of Pippy Senate Race
Mustio Enters Race For Pippy Senate Seat
Red Lion Businessman Runs For Platts Seat
Former Rep. Van Horne Dies
Obama Maintains Solid Support Among PA Women
Jobless Benefits To Expire Unless House Acts
Western PA Joblessness Nudges Downward
Lehigh Valley Adds 1,300 Jobs In December
Erie Unemployment Rate Holds Steady In December
NE Jobless Rate Lowest Since May, But Tops State
Unemployment Falls In The Harrisburg Area
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January 27, 2012

Jan. 30 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Jan. 30 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

Berks County Joins 350 Groups Supporting Renewal Of Growing Greener Program

The Renew Growing Greener Coalition Thursday announced 35 counties – more than half the state – have passed resolutions calling for the renewal of the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund, Pennsylvania’s primary source of funding to help local communities protect water quality, preserve open space and farmland, and enhance parks, trails and other recreational opportunities.
            Now more than 150 government entities, including 109 municipalities, representing more than seven million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.
            This week Berks County adopted a resolution in support of the Growing Greener initiative, marking a significant milestone in the efforts to save the critical program. In addition, BedfordCounty adopted a resolution this week.
            “The Growing Greener program has made a tremendous impact in counties throughout the Commonwealth,” said Chairman of the Berks County Board of Commissioners Christian Leinbach. “In Berks County, the program has helped us enhance our heritage areas, conserve our open space and protect our water quality.  We could not achieve this without Growing Greener.”
            In Bedford County, Growing Greener has contributed to improvements at the Saxton Borough and East Providence wastewater treatment plants and helped mitigate acid mine drainage in Broad Top Township.
            “Bedford County has effectively leveraged Growing Greener funds to achieve tangible, lasting results for our residents,” said Kirt Morris, Chairman of the Bedford County Board of Commissioners.  “We cannot let this program die.”

Republican State Committee Meets To Consider Endorsements

The Republican State Committee meets this weekend to consider endorsements for upcoming statewide offices.  We'll see if the State Committee agrees with endorsements Gov. Corbett recently announced.
            Corbett endorsed Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed for Attorney General, Allegheny County Rep. John Maher for Auditor General, Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn for State Treasurer and Chester County entrepreneur Steve Welch for the U.S. Senate race.           

Friday NewsClips

Supreme Court Won't Explain Redistricting Decision This Week
Court Opinion Awaited Next Week
Court Ruling Throws Legislative Races Into Turmoil
Rejection Of New PA Districts Causes Buzz
GOP Blasts Justice Baer For Remapping Comments
State Justices Drop Bombshell, Hurry To Tropics
Editorial: Court Leaves Pennsylvania Hanging
Corbett Shows Republicans He's In Charge
Column: Planning Out The Primary Races
Corbett Quietly Launches Effort To Reduce Prison Costs
PA Corrections System Cuts Considered
PHEAA: Giving Back State Money, Students Unharmed
Draft Corbett Plan For Chester Schools Stirs Debate
Prosecutors Wrap Up Case Against DeWeese
Witness: DeWeese Stepped Up Pressure After Pay Raise
Ex-Coordinator Says DeWeese Demanded Help
Challenge Ahead For Con. Murphy
York Man Will Run For Platts Congressional Seat
Controversial DPW Advisor Set To Leave His Position
Auditor Warns Philly Schools Budget Situation Dire
Poll: Support For Paterno Firing Dropping
Panel Looking At PA Child Abuse Laws Starts Work
U.S. Attorney Keeping An Eye On HBG Financial Crisis
HBG Council To Request Federal Investigation Next Week
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January 26, 2012

Thursday NewsClips

PA Supreme Court Invalidates Redistricting Plan
Court Orders More Work On New House, Senate Districts
Court Throws Out Redistricting Plan
Court: Go Back To Drawing Board On Districts
Senate Dems Push To Restore School, Social Program Funding
Delaware Loophole Closure Bill Gets Rare Bipartisan Support
Bill Aims To Cancel Corporate Tax Break
Rendell Chides Corbett Over Food Stamp Eligibility
Corbett's Food Stamp Proposal Criticized
Rendell Steps On Toes In Return To Capitol
State Buys Forum Place Building In HBG For $100 Million
House Sends Corbett Small Games Of Chance Bill
Small Games Bill Goes To Governor
State Building A Smaller House
Editorial: Reduce Whole Legislature
McCaffery (Dem) Drops Bid For Attorney General
Gastgeb To Seek Senate Senate Vacated By Pippy
Toomey Backs Rothfus In Congressional Run
Column: Another Sestak Run?  Not A Stretch
New Poll Produces Mixed Results For Obama
F&M College Poll Shows Voters Remain Uncertain
Corbett Will Help Honor Patrick Solano
Judge Wants Details Of Orie Mailing
Campaigning Was Required DeWeese Aide Says
CCAC Shows Off Job Training Program
Millersville President To Step Down
Editorial: Distracted Walking Begins To Take A Toll
Op-Ed: Roe v. Wade Promotes Values Of Freedom, Privacy
Op-Ed: Logic Dictates Nation Review Roe Decision
Editorial: Can't We Give Racehorses Better Than Slaughterhouse?
Allegheny County Courts Cut Costs To Fill Gap
4 Months Later, Harrisburg Takes Steps For Aid Money
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January 25, 2012

Senate Democratic Leader Says Redistricting Ruling Honors Constitution

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) released the following statement in response to the PA Supreme Court's decision to remand the 2011 redistricting plan:
           "We are pleased to learn that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the many petitioners who filed an appeal to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission's final plan. We are grateful that the Supreme Court honored Pennsylvania's Constitution and Commonwealth voters. It is a very important matter, and it is the responsibility of the reapportionment commission to devise a plan that is true to both the Constitution and the voters of Pennsylvania. Counties and communities must have their voices heard in Harrisburg, and our goal was to make sure that the 2011 redistricting process achieved that.
           We are thankful that the Court and the many petitioners understood the concerns of the voters who took the time and effort to express their concerns to both the Commission and ultimately the Court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acted with respect for the Constitution, communities across our Commonwealth, and the voters.
           We await the state Supreme Court's direction regarding drafting a new reapportionment plan for the Commonwealth."

McCaffery (Dem) Drops Bid For Attorney General

McCaffery (Dem) Drops Bid For Attorney General

PA High Court Throws Out Assembly Redistricting

PA High Court Throws Out Assembly Redistricting
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court is invalidating a plan to redraw district lines for seats in the state House and Senate, calling the redistricting approach "contrary to law."
            The justices voted 4-3 to send the plan back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, and the majority said their opinion in the case would be released later.
            The high court's ruling throws into disarray plans by candidates and parties for this year's General Assembly races.
            The two-page order says current district lines remain in force until the commission comes up with a new plan that passes legal muster.
            The commission consists of the Republican and Democratic floor leaders from the House and Senate, along with a fifth member, an appointed judge.
            The plan the court threw out was opposed by Senate Democrats.

Small Games Of Chance Bill Heads To Governor's Desk

The House Wednesday gave final approval and send to the Governor House Bill 169 (Delozier-R-Cumberland) which would amend the current Small Games of Chance law to allow nonprofit associations, charitable organizations and other civic groups to raise revenues to support their community as well as maintain their operation.
            The bill would update the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act, which has not been changed since 1988, allowing for increased limits for prize payouts.
            Small games of chance licenses are used by charitable organizations to raise funds to assist those in the local community.  These nonprofit groups assist community residents by sponsoring youth sports, supporting fire companies and veteran events, refurbishing local parks, and giving out grants and scholarships to our students.
            “The passage of this bill means we are actively working to preserve the role that local organizations have in our communities,” said Rep. Sheryl Delozier. “Most of the money that is spent on these small games of chance does return to the community with a multiplier effect that benefits all of us.”
            House Bill 169 would increase limits for prize payouts from $500 to $1,000 for daily drawings, from $5,000 to $25,000 for weekly drawings and from $5,000 to $10,000 for raffles per calendar month.
            Under the bill, at least 70 percent of proceeds raised by these organizations would be distributed for public interest purposes, and up to 30 percent of the money raised can be used by the organizations to help maintain capital projects such as fixing a roof or heating system.
            “The upcoming budget season is going to be a tough one,” Rep. Delozier noted. “Allowing for increased fundraising will help our nonprofits to fill some of the gaps in funding from government and stay afloat during hard economic times. This bill is the support system our communities need.”
            House Bill 169 was amended in the Senate to include measures that permit fire and emergency services to hold a raffle with a $50,000 limits. Measures to require clubs with liquor licenses to submit semi-annual reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue were also among the changes to the House version of the bill.
            “House Bill 169 has been overwhelmingly supported statewide by community organizations and legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Delozier.  “I am pleased we are finally able to get this bill to the governor’s desk and ensure our nonprofit organizations are able to continue to meet their expenses and fund projects and services throughout our local communities.”
            A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Senate Democrats Outline Their State Budget Priorities

Senate Democrats, led by Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Appropriations Chair Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and others, Wednesday called on the governor to make job creation, tax fairness, education funding, shale and the restoration of funds for safety net programs budget priorities.
            "We need a budget that moves Pennsylvania forward, not one that puts us in reverse," Sen. Costa said. "We need to focus our energy on job creation, restoring education funding, providing sufficient dollars for safety net programs and improving transportation infrastructure."
            The Democrats outlined their budget priorities at a news conference.
            Sen. Costa said Senate Democrats have identified nearly $1 billion in new revenues from smart policy changes, efficiencies and a responsible shale tax that can be used to pay for their agenda.
            Sen. Costa said Pennsylvania has regressed under Gov. Tom Corbett, who has produced no jobs plan while unemployment has stagnated. At the same time, the governor has driven education funding back to 2006 levels and funded higher education support at a level not seen since 1995, under former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge.
            "Senate Democrats produced a comprehensive jobs plan called PA Works Now but we've heard nothing on jobs from the governor," Sen. Costa said. "We are ready to move on transportation if he would lead and let us know how he plans to address that crisis."
            Sen. Hughes said Senate Democrats predicted chaos in education if Corbett's plan to slice more than $1 billion was approved by Republican lawmakers.
            "Senate Democrats voted against last year's budget plan because we thought it would produce exceptionally high local tax bills, cut education quality and imperil schools," Sen. Hughes said. "Now we have a crisis in the Chester-Upland district and there are at least ten more districts that may soon be in a similar position.
            "Insolvency will spread beyond poor schools and spill over into adjoining districts as a result of Gov. Corbett's education and fiscal policies."
            Sen. Hughes said that unemployment rose sharply after Corbett took office and it has taken one year to recede, noting that on jobs "we treaded water for a year."
            Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), who has been the Senate lead negotiator on Marcellus Shale, said that his region in northeast Pennsylvania has been hit hard by job loss and education cuts.
            "We need to make strategic investments and create jobs and we can do that by adopting a responsible shale drilling plan that generates money for rebuilding roads and other infrastructure while we protect the environment and our communities with tough regulations," Sen. Yudichak said.

Bipartisan Plan Unveiled To Close Delaware Tax Loophole

Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) Wednesday joined with Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) to unveil a plan to close the “Delaware Loophole” and implement necessary business tax reforms in Pennsylvania.     
            The proposal is geared toward helping create a more competitive and fair business climate in the state. 
            Employing what is known as an “expense add-back” provision, House Bill 2150 would close the Delaware Loophole and levels the playing field for all companies doing business in Pennsylvania. 
            “Any business tax reform proposal, if it’s to be taken seriously, should include closing the Delaware Loophole,” stated Rep. Reed. “Creating a competitive environment and a level playing field for job creators is vital to our economic recovery, and this proposal accomplishes both goals.” 
            The Delaware Loophole has garnered significant attention over the years and has been criticized as a flaw in Pennsylvania’s business tax structure. The term was coined to describe a legal tax avoidance practice used by some multi-state corporations to reduce their Pennsylvania tax liabilities by transferring the ownership of intangible assets to an affiliated company in Delaware. 
            “A successful business is not built on hiring high-priced tax attorneys and accountants to avoid paying taxes,” Rep. Reed said. “It’s about having a good business model, working long hours, and making sacrifices. Most Pennsylvania businesses do not use this tax avoidance mechanism, which is all the more reason to close the loophole to ensure fairness among all employers.” 
            Targeting very specific transactions among close business affiliates, the new provision would only affect businesses that are taking advantage of the loophole for the sole purpose of tax avoidance in Pennsylvania. The proposal also would use revenue captured through closing the loophole to reduce Pennsylvania’s overall business tax burden. 
            Specifically, closing the Delaware Loophole would enable the state to gradually reduce the corporate net income tax during the next six years; implement a single sales apportionment factor; and gradually phase out the cap on net operating losses during the next nine years. 
            “Year after year, the state ranks among the worst in the nation for the cost of doing business, so it’s clear that comprehensive business tax reforms are needed,” said Rep. Reed. “Closing the Delaware Loophole will bring consistency to our tax structure and lower the tax burden, showing that Pennsylvania is a great place to do business.” 
            Reps. Reed and DePasquale were joined by members of both parties to introduce the legislation. To date, House Bill 2150 has more than 50 co-sponsors. 

Wednesday NewsClips

Turzai Nixes Run For Congress
Turzai Changes His Mind, Won't Run For Congress
Sen. Pippy To Bow Out After 16 Years
Pippy Will Not Run For Another Term
Editorial: PA Primary Might Matter Now
House Panel Supports Bill To Cut Size Of House
Bill To Slash House Size Heads To Vote
House Committee Votes To Reduce Size Of House
House Panel OKs Plan To Shrink Chamber
House Would Shrink Under A Legislative Proposal
Op-Ed: Let's Begin Reform Efforts With Term Limits
DeWeese Ordered Staffer Fired Who Lost House Race
State Time Used To Campaign DeWeese Aides Say
State Time Used To Campaign DeWeese Aides Testify
PA Supreme Court May Be Affected By Orie Scandal
Corbett Not Planning To Attend Paterno Memorial
Two More Vie For Rep. Buxton's House Seat
Toomey To Endorse Reilly For Platts Congressional Seat
Corbett Asked To Aid Poor Schools
New Department To Target Drug, Alcohol Addiction
Erie Casino Table Game Revenue Jumps Nearly 25 Percent
HBG Receiver Asked To Consider Fiscal Plan's Impact On Schools
Harrisburg Council To Ask Feds To Investigate Bond Transactions
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January 24, 2012

Governor Nominates Gary Tennis To New Drug & Alcohol Programs Agency

Gov. Tom Corbett Tuesday nominated Gary Tennis of Philadelphia to serve as secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, which is being created as a result of a 2010 state law.
            Tennis is retired from his previous position as chief of the legislation unit in the Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office, where he represented the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association working with the General Assembly.
            "Gary Tennis has been a passionate advocate for effective drug and alcohol treatment both within and outside the judicial system," Corbett said. "I am confident his experience will help guide the delivery of quality, effective drug and alcohol services for Pennsylvanians."
            In addition to more than 25 years of legislative experience, Tennis served as executive director of the President's Commission on Model State Drug Laws in 1993. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Tulsa in 1975 and was a Rhodes Scholarship nominee. He is also a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania Law School.
            Tennis's first order of business will be to analyze the provision of drug and alcohol services, which are currently provided through several agencies including the state departments of Health and Public Welfare. The goal is to ensure the highest and most effective care for Pennsylvania citizens struggling with addiction.
            Tennis has been charged with taking a common-sense approach to streamlining and eliminating duplication of state drug and alcohol treatment and prevention efforts in Pennsylvania.
            The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs was created under Act 50 of 2010. It will establish a plan for the management and allocation of state and federal funds used to oversee alcohol and drug prevention, intervention and treatment services.
            The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is currently located in the Health and Welfare building. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is assisting in the agency's formation.

Rep. Turzai Will Not Run For Congress

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said Tuesday he has now decided not to run for Congress in the district he helped create as part of legislative reapportionment.
NewsClip: Turzai Changes His Mind, Won't Run For Congress

Sen. Pippy Will Not Seek Re-Election

Sen. John Pippy (R-Allegheny) announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election this year.   Sen. Pippy serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee which deals with liquor control issues.
            "I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election to the Senate of Pennsylvania in 2012. Since 1997, I have had the pleasure of serving and working alongside the constituents of the 37th Senatorial District and 44th Legislative District. Over the years, I have met many wonderful and dedicated people in the public and private sectors, and am grateful for the support and encouragement of so many. It has been truly an honor and privilege to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity."

Tuesday NewsClips

PA Supreme Court Reviews New House, Senate Districts
New Legislative Maps Need Redo, Critics Urge Court
Redistricting Foes Tell Court Of Bad Splits
Prosecutor: DeWeese Is A Common Thief
State-Paid Staffers Made DeWeese Happy
Judge Bans Tweeting During DeWeese Trial
Prosecutor Objects To Orie Letter Seeking Character Witnesses
Senate OKs Bill To Extend Jobless Benefits
Editorial: Asset Test For Food Stamps Is No Asset
Column: Sturla Backs Delaying AG From Running For Governor
LCCC Reports On Accreditation Work
Western PA Congressional Races Revving Up
Washington County Commissioner Joins Congressional Race
York Commissioner To Run For Platts Congressional Seat
Jason McNew To Run For 193rd House Seat
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January 20, 2012

Jan. 23 PA Environment Digest Now Available

January 23 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

Growing Greener Coalition To Legislature: Make Marcellus Shale Bill #1 Priority

Renew Growing Greener Coalition Tuesday welcomed legislators back into session and called upon them to restore Growing Greener funding by making the passage of meaningful Marcellus Shale legislation their top legislative priority.
           “Now is the time to get down to business,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “Our state and our environment can ill afford any further delays in the passage of a Marcellus Shale package that restores funding to help local communities across the state protect water quality, preserve open space and farmland, and enhance parks, trails and other recreational opportunities.”
          “The Coalition is firmly united in its support for the passage of a provision that allocates 25 percent of the revenues from leases for oil and gas drilling on state forests to the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund,” Heath continued. “Any final Marcellus Shale measure must contain this provision, which is consistent with the original intent of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act.”
         The Oil and Gas Lease Fund was established in 1955 by legislation to reinvest revenues from the extraction of nonrenewable oil and gas resources from state lands back into conservation and recreation programs benefiting all Pennsylvanians. The Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act states that the “Fund shall be exclusively used for conservation, recreation, dams, or flood control or to match any federal grants which may be used for any of the aforementioned purposes.”
          Money from the fund comes from the rents and royalties from oil and gas leasing and drilling on state parks and forest lands.
          “Natural gas drilling in state forests and parks is already putting at risk our scenic and recreational resources and impacting wildlife habitat,” Heath stated.  “Add to that the risks to water and air quality and it becomes clear why a substantial portion of the revenue from drilling leases on state lands should be directed to the Environmental Stewardship Fund.”
          At present, The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is the primary benefactor and administrator of the fund. As such, funds have been used – up until 2009 – primarily to help DCNR acquire additional state parks and forestlands and to address the infrastructure needs in these areas. More recently, the fund has also been used to supplement DCNR’s operating expenses and to help defray cuts to their operating budgets for state parks and forests.
          “Revenue projections indicate that there is ample funding to support both the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund and DCNR,” Heath said. “It is not a choice of either/or. We can do both with the revenue from existing leases. The Coalition does not support the leasing of any additional state parks and forest lands.”
           In addition, Heath noted that to satisfy short-term needs, the Coalition supports allocating a significant portion of an impact fee to Growing Greener and encourages the Commonwealth to restore Growing Greener tipping fees to their original purpose of funding Growing Greener projects instead of paying bond debt expenses.
          Growing Greener is a bipartisan program established in 1999 under Gov. Tom Ridge and later expanded by Governors Schweiker and Rendell.  Since its establishment, Growing Greener has created a legacy of success, preserving more than 107,000 acres of Pennsylvania’s family farmland, conserving more than 42,300 acres of threatened open space, adding 26,000 acres to state parks and forests, and restoring over 16,000 acres of abandoned mine lands. 
          Moreover, Growing Greener has contributed and leveraged billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue. Yet despite the program’s accomplishments, funding for Growing Greener projects and grants fell from an average of approximately $150 million per year for the last six years to $27.3 million in the current state budget, over an 80 percent reduction.
          The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, consisting of nearly 350 organizations and government entities from across the state.
          More than 140 government entities, including 33 counties, representing more than seven million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.
          The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the Commonwealth’s largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations consisting of nearly 350 organizations and government entities.