Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener program has a long history of bipartisan support. Now known as the State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Program, Growing Greener reflects the importance of clean streams, open space protections, and robust environmental infrastructure to members of both parties. We are proud to be among the state lawmakers who continue to support this crucial program.
The program’s history goes back to 1999. Governor Tom Ridge signed into law legislation creating the first Growing Greener program to benefit various environmental initiatives including parks and recreation, clean water, agricultural improvements and sewer and water projects. This program received large bipartisan support.
Under Governor Ed Rendell, Growing Greener II became law in 2005. Funded with a bond issuance, Growing Greener II continued many of the same funding streams to benefit watersheds, outdoor recreation and the environment around our Commonwealth. It also received broad bipartisan support.
Since that time, there has been pent-up demand to enact a Growing Greener III program to provide new funding to these initiatives and to add to environmental investments in our state. The challenge has been finding funding while the Commonwealth has operated under strained budgets over the past decade.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a significant stream of federal monies coming to states to address important issues during these challenging times. We introduced Growing Greener III bills in the Senate and the House this session that directed some of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) federal monies to be used to fund this latest update to this successful legacy program.
At the same time, other legislation was introduced in the Senate to provide millions of dollars of ARP funds for a Clean Streams Fund to address agricultural runoff and acid mine drainage. Once again, these bills had broad bipartisan support. The challenge was getting this legislation to the “finish line” when there were dozens of competing plans to use the limited amount of federal ARP monies.
Soon after introducing Senate Bill 525, we began working with the diverse Growing Greener coalition that had been formed years ago. Among the partners in this group are WeConservePA, Natural Lands, PennFuture, Lancaster Farmland Trust, Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, and the Foundation for PA Watersheds.
Also, we worked with, and communicated on a regular basis with, DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn who has been a vocal advocate for new investment.
In addition, we must acknowledge that the PA Farm Bureau listed these two bills as their top priority when they engaged with all legislators during their advocacy day in Harrisburg in late March.
With the assistance of all of these groups and Secretary Dunn, we were able to spread the word to their membership and from their membership to legislators and legislative leaders. As we headed into the serious budget negotiations in June, we could feel the momentum increasing.
The end result of July’s comprehensive budget package – passed with broad bipartisan support – was a monumental investment in programs and initiatives to benefit the environment across our Commonwealth:
Thanks to a concerted and united effort, this entire package was adopted.
We look forward to working with all of the coalition groups and supporters of this effort to ensure that these monies are well spent and that our Commonwealth and environment will benefit for generations to come.