Legislators stopped worst cuts proposed by Gov. Corbett
(Harrisburg, PA – June 30, 2012) - With the final pieces of the budget puzzle put together and sent to the governor’s desk, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) thanked legislators from both parties and citizens from across the state for restoring funding for vital conservation and alternative fuels programs in the budget that were originally targeted for elimination by Gov. Tom Corbett.
PennFuture also praised the creation of an historic preservation tax credit that will help revitalize our older communities.
But cuts to other environmental and social programs were still significant, even though the final package miraculously delivered nearly $1.7 billion over 25 years to Royal Dutch Shell to build a cracker plant in Beaver County, with weak oversight of taxpayer money and no specific requirements that Pennsylvanians will be hired for the jobs.
“Thanks to many determined legislators, led by House Majority Appropriations Chair Bill Adolph, R - Delaware, several programs and funding targeted for elimination in the original Corbett budget proposal have been saved,” said PennFuture’s Policy Director Steve Stroman. “These include the state’s premier conservation funding program, the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, and Pennsylvania’s nationally recognized farmland preservation program. Citizens raised their voices to protest the proposed cuts, and our legislators stepped up to the plate.
“PennFuture led the successful fight to rescue another program targeted for elimination, the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program,” continued Stroman. “We helped the business community speak up for this program, and educated legislators on the need to invest in a wide range of emerging alternative fuels technologies including electric vehicles, biodiesel, and natural gas. We’re gratified that legislators fought for this valuable program and won the day.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stop a last-minute $12 million raid for the next fiscal year on the Consumer Energy Program created by the 2008 Alternative Energy Investment Act, and more cuts to the Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources,” continued Stroman. “In particular, Pennsylvania continues to disinvest in our award winning state parks, which return nearly $10 to local economies for every dollar of state investment.”
“More than anything, this budget shows the priorities of the Corbett administration,” said George Jugovic Jr., PennFuture’s president and CEO. “At the same time the state is continuing to cut vital investments in human capital and social programs, we are ramming through the governor’s plan to give Shell – the second largest and one of the most profitable companies in the world – nearly $1.7 billion in tax credits to build an ethane cracker plant.
“And while the advocates for the ethane cracker claim it will bring new jobs to Pennsylvania, the language in the Tax Code bill (House Bill 761) approved today provides weak assurances that taxpayer dollars will be well spent. The bill also lacks specific language to make sure those jobs will go to Pennsylvanians,” continued Jugovic. “And they had the opportunity to do just that. The Senate rejected an amendment to HB 761 by Senator Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, that would have imposed tight reporting requirements to show how many jobs were created each year, the types of jobs created and the wages paid, the number of jobs going to Pennsylvanians broken out by political subdivision, and the amount of public subsidies provided including loans, grants and tax subsidies.
“And let’s be perfectly clear, while claiming to be a free marketer, Corbett is actually using his budget to create winners and losers in the market place,” continued Jugovic. “The governor and House Republican legislative leaders refused to consider minor changes to our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards that would preserve jobs and investment in the Pennsylvania solar industry, but gave an immense subsidy to Shell with loose protections of these taxpayer dollars.”
PennFuture congratulated the General Assembly for the creation of a tax credit for the restoration of qualified commercial historic buildings. “This is a great step forward for Pennsylvania,” said Stroman. “State incentives for the rehabilitation of historic buildings could play an important role in the revitalization of older communities by attracting investment, creating jobs, boosting retail activity and tourism, and increasing tax revenues for local communities.
“Several legislators deserve special credit for moving this language to the governor’s desk,” continued Stroman. “First and foremost, Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, championed the legislation and was unceasing in his advocacy during budget negotiations in June. Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, also championed the issue in the House. I’d especially like to recognize former state representative Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, who led the fight for this legislation for a decade prior to his retirement in 2008.”
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
PennFuture has staff throughout the state, in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilkes-Barre. The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the “state’s leading environmental advocacy organization,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization “one of the ten most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling,” and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture “the commonwealth’s main environmental advocate.”
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