House GOP Plan To Empty Environmental Funds Means Not Paying 900 Grants Already Awarded
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.
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[Posted: Sept. 1, 2017]
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