HARRISBURG, Pa. - They help keep our water clean, our communities healthy and our family farms thriving in Pennsylvania. Still, two key environmental programs find themselves under the gun in state budget talks.
The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund is funded by a percentage of the state's realty transfer tax and helps pay for local park projects, preservation of natural areas and building trails. The Farmland Preservation program is driven by money from the cigarette sales tax.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Pennsylvania Executive Director Matt Ehrhart says the next couple of weeks will be an indicator of where the priorities of Pennsylvania lawmakers are in terms of programs people care about.
"There have been statements recently by Republican leadership that these are very important programs. We're hopeful that we'll be able to restore full funding and maintain the dedicated funding sources."
Ehrhart says it's one thing to establish these types of projects in a community and another to maintain them.
"They're places where our kids play, and playground equipment needs to be safe. We need to maintain roads, we need to take care of these places as well as just procure them."
Ehrhart says the same foresight shown when the programs were established needs to be demonstrated when funding is being considered. He says the discussion should include the legacy our generation leaves behind.
"In terms of access to natural places, access to productive agricultural land, water quality, other core values shared by the citizenry. I think that's why we've seen such a surge in support for these programs."
Governor Tom Corbett is proposing phasing out the Farmland Preservation program. CBF says the Keystone program, or Key 93, was formed close to two decades ago to help foster conservation and recreation investments. CBF says traditionally, each dollar dedicated to it is doubled by private investments in parks, trails, community green spaces, even libraries.
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