The state still has $1.8 billion or so in federal American Rescue Plan funds to spend. Considering this and that state revenues are exceeding expenses by billions of dollars, this spring presents the most optimal conditions in a generation for legislators to boost conservation and outdoor recreation investments.
Contact your state senator and representative or their staff (every individual call and email has impact):
Identify that you are their constituent and describe your community’s needs for a boost in state investments [if examples would be helpful, see sample needs and opportunities and sample messages].
Note that the state’s American Rescue Plan funds provide a golden opportunity to address these pressing needs. If the state can’t make long-term investments in our future now (with American Rescue Plan money available and huge state revenue surpluses coming in), then when will it ever be able to do so? Note also that the state’s one-time investments can provide an ongoing stream of health, economic, and other public benefits for years if not generation to come.
Ask them to support legislative initiatives (often referred to as “Growing Greener III”) and a 2022-23 state budget to make these investments happen. Further ask them to talk to their fellow legislators and legislative leaders about the needs and opportunity to do something now.
Also, ask your family, friends, and associates to act. The more of us who take action, the greater the likelihood of success.
Governor Wolf on 2/2/2022 called for injecting $450 million into a Growing Greener III using a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan dollars. The Governor’s call is particularly exciting because it dovetails with Republican initiatives in both the PA Senate and House. Senator Gordner’s SB 525 injects $500 million of American Rescue Plan funds into a Growing Greener III. The bill, which enjoys sponsorship by a bipartisan majority of senators (13 Republicans and 14 Democrats), has received second consideration by the chamber. Representatives Schlegel Culver and Quinn introduced a House version as HB 2020.
Complementing these bills is the creation of a Clean Streams Fund and Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program as provided in Senator Yaw’s SB 832 (which has also received second consideration) and Representative Hershey’s House version, HB 1901.
Use of American Rescue Plan funds for a Growing Greener III constitutes an investment in capital projects that can be implemented now and will deliver huge returns on the investment for decades to come. From nature-based solutions that prevent flooding and stream degradation (including installation of riparian forest buffers, passive AMD treatment, and wetland restoration) to rehabilitation of parks and trails and protection of wildlife habitat that underpin a large part of the Commonwealth’s tourism and outdoor recreation economies, American Rescue Plan dollars can make a tremendous difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians.
Our various natural infrastructure needs are immense but the economic payoff in addressing them is huge. American Rescue Plan dollars applied to natural infrastructure would support myriad small businesses and good-paying jobs. Investing in Pennsylvania’s environment also makes strong fiscal sense. It is well established that state environmental investments provide tremendous rates of return—whether the measure is job creation and economic activity, avoided costs (such as public health and flooding), net tax revenues, or the wellbeing of people and communities.