|HB 2004, which will negatively impact the Keystone Fund, is back on the calendar for second consideration and then full house vote. We need as many calls and emails to Pennsylvania House members today and into next week as possible. The Keystone Fund is CRITICAL funding for keeping our state parks and forests safe and open.
In addition to funding projects in our state parks and forests, the Keystone Fund also provides funding for libraries, historic preservation, open space protection, and community recreation enhancements. The Keystone Fund website provides an interactive project map showing the number of projects and the grant amounts made for community recreation and open space protection. Look for your county and determine for yourself whether the program is working and then mention that in your comments. (Note the website does not yet include 2019 grants.)
You can view the letter that we sent to House members at our News page (https://paparksandforests.org/news/category/save-our-parks-and-forests/). A few talking points for you include:
The Keystone Fund was approved unanimously in the state Senate, with only three votes in opposition from the state House, and with 67% approval of the voters in 1993. It has a 26 year history of success.
In establishing the Keystone Fund, the General Assembly sought to create a dedicated and permanent funding source for making investments in recreation, parks, conservation, libraries, historical preservation, and education.
Over 97% of Pennsylvanians still believe that funds set aside for the specific purpose of taking care of our public lands and local community resources SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE.
HB 2004 overturns the agreement with the citizens of the commonwealth by removing automatic allocation of the funds away from the agreed upon agencies and placing control with the General Assembly.
HB 2004 creates unpredictable funding and stands to reduce funding for important programs and projects. Unpredictable funding makes it difficult to plan for multi-year projects. Currently, there is more demand than funds available.
The proposal in HB 2004 eliminates the certainty that comes with knowing how much of the reality transfer tax each agency will receive and eliminates the percentage allocated to agencies and programs, which means in any given year funds could be withheld or directed away from certain programs. It substitutes political favoritism for the Fund’s needs-based allocation of financial resources.
The Keystone Fund creates jobs through the thousands of small businesses that provide the labor and expertise to take projects to completion – think invasive species contractors, wildland fire (aviation) support, surveyors, landscapers, architects, engineers, planners, drafters, geologists, archaeologists, manufacturers (playground equipment, picnic tables, fire rings, swimming pools, water/sewage components), lumber yards and building materials suppliers, hardware stores, painters, contractors, builders, heavy equipment operators, chemical companies, equipment rental businesses, planners, designers, aggregate and paving companies, roofing contractors, fencing installers, tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, carpenters). By removing the funds, opportunities for employment are reduced across the state and for many in the rural economies of Pennsylvania. At a time when we NEED jobs, it is counter-intuitive to reduce employment opportunities.
The simplest of arguments: If it isn’t broken, don’t “fix” it.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to contact your PA House member (find yours at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/). We all know that we have been in the position of protecting the Keystone Fund before, although this is a new proposal that keeps the fund in name, but not in function. During COVID-19, more people have turned to their parks and forests than ever before, yet there are those that would allow these places to become unsafe and unusable by cutting critical funding for necessary projects. We cannot allow this.
We all know that once dedicated funds end up in the general fund, they often don’t make it to their intended audience OR they are used to replace general fund revenues to agencies, in essence reducing their budget allocation.
If you love your parks (at all levels) and forests, make your voice heard.
Marci J. Mowery, President