1 Top Story, COVID-19, Save Our Parks and Forests
To: Members of the House
Re: Concerns with Amendment A05143 to House Bill 1822 (P.N. 3503)
Dear Representative _____:
It has come to our attention that the House is poised to consider, among other legislation, House Bill 1822. An amendment to that bill has been filed – A05143 – that would freeze any new spending from a targeted list of special funds until emergency disaster declarations related to COVID-19 are terminated.
While more than 100 state special funds exist, only 16 are impacted by this amendment. The majority of those 16 appear to focus on agriculture, conservation, and community development.
We understand that Pennsylvania and the nation are operating in a crisis situation and that there will be tough economic times ahead. Targeting these funds does not mitigate that crisis and, in fact, could add to it.
Revenues from these funds permit state and local agencies to address imminent threats to public health, address infrastructure needs, and leverage private and federal funds. Revenues help to create jobs through the projects that are funded and the entities that are supported. The ability to access these funds may also permit Pennsylvania to be shovel-ready on infrastructure projects should a federal infrastructure bill pass … making federal investments more likely and attractive. Historically, the demand outpaces the source and freezing or eliminating these funds will have a negative impact on local communities as well as small businesses that benefit from the contracts made available from this funding. Investments in addressing maintenance and safety needs ensures that public places remain open for visitors at this critical time.
Now, more than ever, Pennsylvanians are turning to our community and state parks and forests for stress relief, family time, and fitness. This heavy use is occurring at a time when staff and volunteers are limited. Our public lands, the property of all Pennsylvanians, cannot absorb this heavy use without funds to mitigate damage and to be ready for when we can be back to “business as normal.”
Further, these funds are also used to address issues that communities across the state are struggling with every day, such as flooding, drinking water protection, and more.
It is unclear why only these funds were targeted, yet it is hard to deny that the bill will have a significant impact on economically vital environmental programs.
We urge you to reconsider this amendment and to consult with the Administration and the impacted agencies to fully understand the impact of this action.
Thank you for your consideration.
Marci J. Mowery, President