Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Analysis: PA Already Has $65 Million A Year For Clean Water, Just Stop Giving Money To Folks Like Johnny Depp

While the political fight is running hot and heavy to adopt a new natural gas severance tax or new fees on this or that to fund programs, no one has noticed there is a $65 million a year solution to fund Pennsylvania’s environmental and clean water restoration projects right under their noses.
It doesn’t involve enacting any new taxes or fees.
There’s no need to go into debt to float a state bond.
There’s no increase in the state budget.
And it doesn’t involve enacting any Rube Goldberg-type contraption of a program that robs Peter to pay Paul who owes Mary.
We also already have the program to deliver the new funding.
All legislators have to do is stop giving money to the movie and TV industry to temporarily support people like Johnny Depp and invest the same amount in permanent clean water improvements.
In FY 2017-18 state government plans to spend $65 million to give money to movie companies for one-time projects that support Johnny Depp and his ilk and movies like Zack and Miri Make A Porno (really).
Why would Republicans do that?
The answer is, I don’t have a clue.
Despite repeated media reports on how the Film Production Tax Credit Program is a waste of money because the movie folks sell 99 percent of the tax credits to someone else and the number of permanent jobs it yields is actually tiny for the money spent every year, Republicans keep funding it year after year and want more.
The Independent Fiscal Office concluded in a 2016 report Pennsylvania receives loses 86 cents for every dollar invested in the Film Tax Credit Program.
In these difficult budget times, tough decisions have to be made, although this one seems easy.
Pennsylvania has legal obligations to cleanup 19,000 miles of its polluted rivers and streams, is under the gun to meet its Chesapeake Bay Watershed cleanup obligations, has 180,000 acres of abandoned mines and 5,000 miles of mine-polluted streams, thousands of leaking and abandoned oil and gas wells, a backlog of local and state recreation projects and tens of thousands of acres of valuable farmland and open space threatened by development.
To deliver this funding, no new program is needed.  
The Growing Greener Program has been providing funding in all these areas since 1999 and has a track record of success unmatched by any other environmental program.
Should the state give away $65 million a year to support temporary movie projects involving folks like Johnny Depp and movies about how to make a porno?  
Or will legislators support permanent improvements by farmers and communities that want to make their environment cleaner and better?
How about it.  Will the folks in the General Assembly be able to make this tough decision or not?  
And they don’t really have to do much to put in place one of the most significant investments in restoring Pennsylvania’s environment in history.
All it takes is real leadership.

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