Republican members of the House of Representatives from Lancaster County are questioning Gov. Ed Rendell’s priorities in pushing to fund a movie tax credit while leaving two important funding programs in jeopardy.
As part of ongoing state budget negotiations, legislators are haggling over the potential of pulling dollars from a funding stream dedicated to maintaining and developing parks, libraries, and museums to sustain ongoing efforts to clean hazardous environmental sites around the Commonwealth.
Local Republican representatives say neither of the important established funds needs to be cut; instead, they advocate that a $75 million tax credit for major movies and TV series which film in Pennsylvania be used for the funds. The tax credit was a priority pushed by Rendell that is said to be included in a “handshake? budget agreement reached by legislative leaders and the governor earlier this week.
“The bottom line is that the governor has misguided priorities,? Rep. Katie True (R-East Hempfield) said. “We’re being pushed to decide whether it’s more important to fund parks and historic sites or fund the cleanup of hazardous sites. But that question misses the point entirely. Rendell’s priority of the movie tax credit is the money we should be using to fully support both of these funds.?
The proposed action is part of Senate Bill 913, a bill adopted by the Senate last month that includes a proposal to fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund (HSCA) program with money taken from the Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund. Provisions in the bill would move $40 million annually from the Keystone Fund, currently funded by 15 percent of state realty transfer tax revenues, to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund. The HSCA is now funded by the Capital Stocks and Franchise Tax, which is in the midst of a multi-year phase out.
The Keystone Fund was established as a funding stream for upgrading, repairing, and developing state and community parks, public libraries, museums, historic sites, recreation facilities and zoos.
HSCA finances cleanup projects at abandoned industrial facilities and contaminated sites. It also provides a statewide emergency response network to remove contaminants and stabilize the environment in the event of hazardous spills or other accidents.
“It makes no sense to take money from one of these to fund the other when dollars could be freed from other sources,? Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) said. “I’m especially concerned with the potential of a funding cut for the hazardous site cleanup efforts.?
Cutler noted that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently listed a site near Intercourse as being a potentially hazardous site. The freshman lawmaker said that the DEP have drilled test wells to assess water quality and are actively monitoring the situation.
“If funding were to be cut for the site cleanup program, who knows how many sites in question across Pennsylvania would suddenly be dropped from observation, since existing dollars would have to be funneled to the most egregious problems?,? Cutler continued. “I’m not going to stand for any residents in my district to have to question whether their water is safe to drink because the funding to assess the cleanliness has disappeared.?
State Rep. John Bear (R-Lititz) also expressed concern over the potential of a cut to the Keystone Fund. "My district has some of the county's most vibrant libraries in Lititz and Manheim Township, as well as beautiful parks and the Landis Valley Museum. My constituents have invested a significant amount of time and energy in strengthening our community's schools, parks, and public libraries. Each of these assets could lose funding if the Keystone Fund were cut in any way."
The Lancaster County legislators were especially frustrated that the movie tax credit was such a high priority to the governor.
“Cleaning the environment is more important than funding a tax credit for Hollywood,? Rep. Scott Boyd (R-West Lampeter) said. “Rendell would rather take money from our libraries and museums and from farmland preservation efforts than turn away his star-studded campaign contributors.?
“Are Michael Moore and Jane Fonda more important to Ed Rendell than clean air and water here in Pennsylvania?? Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Narvon).
“Both of these funds are priorities for Lancaster County,? Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-West Donegal Twp.) said. “At the end of the last fiscal year, Pennsylvania enjoyed a $650 million surplus. Clearly there are places to find adequate funding for a clean environment and for our cultural treasures.?
“This is just one more illustration of Rendell’s skewed priorities,? Rep. Tom Creighton (R- Manheim) said. “I’m much more concerned with safety and with quality of life for our families than I am with giving movie moguls a tax break.?
Lancaster County Republican House Delegation
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Diane Moore