Let’s Restore the Rest of the Keystone Fund

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Steve Stroman at PennFuture says Jake Corman’s budget partially restores Tom Corbett’s raid of the Keystone Fund for parks, recreation, and conservation (including anti-sprawl farmland preservation), but that we need to do more to restore all the cuts:

Gov. Corbett wants to permanently eliminate this funding in his proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Until this year, a portion of the Commonwealth’s realty transfer tax provided dedicated funding to the Keystone Fund; the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) share of the tax is around $36 million per year. Gov. Corbett wants to divert the entire DCNR share to the General Fund budget. If successful, this would be the largest raid on conservation funding in Pennsylvania history.

But help is at hand. Tuesday the Senate Appropriations Committee chaired by Senator Jake Corman, R-Centre, approved a budget bill that averted the Corbett torpedo and turned the Keystone ship toward calmer waters.

Yesterday the full Senate passed the bill by a 39-8 vote. The Senate Republican budget amendment to Senate Bill 1466 makes two significant changes.

First, and perhaps most significantly, SB 1466 permanently restores the annual dedicated funding mechanism for DCNR’s share of Keystone funding from the realty transfer tax. Losing the dedicated funding for Keystone that has been in place since 1993 would have had a crippling effect on many programs. The fund has supported 846 trail projects, helped conserve 145,909 acres of green space, assisted 2,557 community park projects, and made hundreds of significant investments in state parks and state forest recreational projects, and much more.

Second, for fiscal year 2012-13, the Senate Republican budget restores half of the funding for Keystone, approximately $18 million. The other half of the funding is diverted to the General Fund.

Now we need to build on the Senate’s action. There is a lot of work to be done, especially in the House, to restore the other $18 million for the Keystone Fund as the budget process moves along.

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