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House GOP Plan To Empty Environmental Funds Means Not Paying 900 Grants Already Awarded
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A plan by a group of conservative House Republicans lead by Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) to empty environmental special funds and transfer the money to the General Fund will mean not paying communities for all or part of at least 900 grants for local projects already approved and underway over the last two years.

Another 438 applications are now pending for new grants none of which will be funded if the environmental funds are raided.

Of course they could also just take any “uncommitted” funding which means there would be no new grants from those funds.  And once they take the money it is typically never restored again because next year the state budget problems will be worse.

One way or another we may find out more details about the plan.  Rep. Moul and a group of 17 conservative legislators have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, September 5 at 1:00 to unveil it.  The press conference will be available through the House Republican Caucus website.

ABC27 News quoted Rep. Moul  Monday evening as saying they “discovered” “pots of money” sitting in “idle accounts.”  “Why would you go borrow the money and pay interest on money and raise taxes if you have taxpayer money sitting right there?”

While Rep. Moul did not go into detail about which funds, it is very clear he and his group are looking at the list of special funds drawn up by the Commonwealth Foundation that identifies over $3 billion in funding for what the Foundation calls the “Shadow Budget Programs.”

These funds are not shadow programs at all, of course, they fund important programs ranging from public transportation, agriculture and local environmental projects.  They are in the Governor’s Executive Budget every year.

With respect to three key environmental funds-- the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund, the Recycling Fund and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund-- they all work on a reimbursement basis.

After being awarded a grant, a community or nonprofit must spend its own money first on the project and then seek reimbursement from its approved grant after the project is done or at critical stages.  Sometimes that can take two or three years depending on the project.

And when a community spends these dollars on projects they are employing local contractors, landscapers and other businesses.

The balances in these funds are not just sitting there.  When grants are awarded, the amount of the grants are reserved so funds are available when the reimbursement requests come in from communities.

If House Republicans succeed in emptying those accounts, that money will be gone and communities will get no reimbursements leaving them stuck with the entire cost of a local project, even though they relied on being approved for a state grant to move ahead.

At a minimum, there are 900 grants at risk now from just these three funds alone--

-- Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund

    -- May 2016: 114 Growing Greener Grants

    -- January 2015: 109 Growing Greener Grants

-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund

    -- December 2016: 261 DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Grants

    -- February 2016: 176 DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Grants

    -- Another 438 applications are pending for the next round of DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Grants

-- Recycling Fund

    -- June 2016: 120 DEP Recycling Implementation Grants

    -- January 2015: 120 DEP Recycling Implementation Grants

Also on the Commonwealth Foundation’s list are--

-- Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund - $66.9 million

-- Resource Enhancement and Production (Farm Conservation) Tax Credit - $10 million

One interesting note, each grant to a community or nonprofit is a contract with the state for the money.  If this House Republican plan is enacted, there will no doubt be lots of lawsuits filed to get the state to honor their end of the contract.

Rep. Moul is the same legislator who is leading an effort to all but abolish the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

NewsClips:

Op-Ed: PA Needs To Get Serious About Its Drinking Water Crisis, Jim Sandoe, DEP CAC

DEP Proposes Fee Increases To Shore Up Drinking Water Inspection Program

Cusick: DEP To Increase Fees For Shale Gas Well Permits

O’Neill: Severance Tax On Gas Drilling In PA Only Fair

PA Reverses Proposed Cuts To LIHEAP Heating Aid For Poor

Cuts To EPA Funding Could Hobble Delaware River’s Cleanup, Report

Trump’s EPA Cuts Threaten Water Quality In Delaware Watershed, Report Says

A Call To Save EPA From Trump Administration’s Budget Axe

Op-Ed: Let’s See Funding For Delaware Watershed Protection, Restoration

Thompson: No Solutions Yet, More State Budget Work To Do

Tension Rises Between House GOP, Wolf As State’s General Fund Teeters Near Zero

AP: Wolf Authorizes Loan From Motor Vehicle Fund, State’s Finances Will Soon Be Much More Dire

To Pay Bills, PA Forced To Move Money Between Accounts

House GOP Members Say They Can Balance The Budget Without Borrowing Or Taxes

Commonwealth Foundation Hit List Of Special Funds House GOP May Tap

AP: What Will House Republicans Do?  It’s PA’s $2 Billion Question

Lawmakers To Return To Session In 2 Weeks, Address Budget

Harvey Cleanup Tests Trump Plan To Shrink EPA By 8 Percent

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Day 66: Different Day, Same Stuff; Will There Be An Early Fall Freeze On State Spending?

Op-Ed: The Local Economic Impact Of Failing To Fund Clean Water Programs

2nd Warning: House Republicans About To Raid Environmental Funds To Balance The Budget

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Local Govt. Associations All Oppose Manganese Rider On Budget Admin Code Bills

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Op-Ed: Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment Facilities Seek Loophole In Senate-Passed Admin Code Budget Rider

PA Environmental Council: Budget Deal, A Bad Solution To The Wrong Problem

PRC Urges Senate, House, Gov. Wolf To Oppose Budget Bill Changes That Undercut DEP’s Permitting Authority

30 Environmental Groups Urge House To Vote Against Budget Bills That Would Demolish DEP

Business, Energy Groups Oppose Severance, Energy Taxes, Don’t Expect Permit Reforms To Survive Legal Challenges, Distance Themselves From 3rd Party Permit Reviews

Conservatives For Responsible Stewardship Oppose Budget Bill Environmental Riders

Nothing In Senate $970 Million Revenue Package For The Environment, Code Bills Littered With Environmental Riders

Senate Environmental Permitting Changes Would Emasculate DEP’s Ability To Regulate Air, Water, Mining, Waste, Radiation, Oil & Gas

[Posted: Sept. 1, 2017]


9/4/2017

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