Restore PA Infrastructure Initiative Introduced With Enough Co-Sponsors To Nearly Pass House, Senate
On June 5, the $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania Infrastructure Plan legislation was introduced with strong bipartisan support as House Bill 1585, sponsored by Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery), with 99 cosponsors [83 Democrats, 16 Republicans] and Senate Bill 725, sponsored by Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) and Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) with 25 cosponsors (22 Democrats, 3 Republicans).
It takes 102 votes for a bill to pass the House and 26 in the Senate, if Republican leadership in the Senate and House allow a vote.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) told Capitolwire.com Gov. Wolf has said the proposal is not linked to the budget and there are no plans to address the proposal in June. Fall at the earliest, he said.
“It’s not been vetted yet, and we’re certainly not going to create a revenue source that could be a WAM [walking around money] platform, without knowing how this money is going to be spent,” Sen. Corman said, and later added, “the whole issue is off for now” while the Legislature explores other options.
[Note: One option several Republican Senators are ready to introduce is authorizing more natural gas drilling on DCNR’s State Forest lands, however, that proposal is an empty promise. It was introduced June 5 as Senate Bill 716 (Bartolotta-R-Washington).]
In a public statement headlined “Gov. Wolf’s Restore PA Plan Would More Likely Destroy PA,” House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) called the plan “a $4.5 billion, debt-financed slush fund to be allocated at the whim of a new government board and paid for by yet another job-killing tax on the natural gas production industry.”
Speaker Turzai said a better solution is to adopt the “Energize PA” package of taxpayer funded natural gas use subsidies and create a new political commission to take over DEP’s job of setting environmental standards and making individual permit decisions.
The House Democratic Policy Committee and Senate Democratic Policy Committee are scheduled to hold a hearing June 10 on Restore PA in Room 418 of the Main Capitol starting at 10:00 a.m. Click Here to watch live.
Restore PA As Introduced
The bill language, in addition to imposing a severance tax on natural gas production, creates the Restore Pennsylvania Program governed by a 7-member board appointed by the Governor-- 3 members-- and one member each by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, Speaker of the House and Minority Leader of the House.
The Governor would select the board Chair.
The Board would set funding allocations annually for each of these categories: High-speed Internet access; Flood control infrastructure; Disaster response; Green infrastructure; Blight demolition and redevelopment; Stormwater infrastructure; Brownfield clean-up; Contaminant remediation; Business development and site selection; Energy efficiency; and Transportation infrastructure.
Specific uses for the funding and eligible applicants are established in the bill. The uses related to the environment and energy include--
-- Traditional Flood Control Infrastructure
-- Disaster Response Measures: a disaster relief trust fund to assist individuals who suffer losses that are not compensated by FEMA or other programs.
-- Pipeline Preparedness And Response Fund: providing training, planning, coordination, equipment for county, municipal, school district, volunteer emergency responders as determined by PEMA;
-- Green Infrastructure:
-- DEP-- existing programs for watershed protection, mine reclamation, abandoned oil and gas well plugging;
-- DCNR-- existing programs to improve State Parks, Forests, watershed restoration, open space preservation, community parks and recreation;
-- Agriculture-- existing county farmland preservation, grants to conservation districts for financial and technical assistance to implement on-farm best management practices;
-- DCED-- fund Main Street and downtown redevelopment;
-- Fish & Boat Commission-- capital improvement projects for existing lands, facilities;
-- Game Commission-- capital projects for existing lands, facilities; and
-- PennDOT/DCNR-- ATV trails, connectors, feasibility studies.
-- Stormwater Infrastructure: establish a Storm Water Control Grant Program within DEP to fund projects to separate combined sewer overflows, stormwater pollution reduction projects and projects for compliance with Stormwater Management Act with priorities for communities order orders and working as part of a regional collaboration;
-- Brownfields Cleanup: Provide funding to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund for uses authorized under the act;
-- Contaminant Remediation:
-- Health-- grants for lead paint contamination abatement
-- Education/DHS-- remediation of lead contaminates drinking water in schools, child care centers
-- PennVEST-- grants to treat PFAS contaminated drinking water with authority to PennVEST to recover funds from responsible parties
-- Transportation Infrastructure:
-- Increase bike and pedestrian paths and access
-- DCNR and State Conservation Commission Dirt and Gravel Road Program.
The guidelines developed for the administration of the funding under the Restore Pennsylvania Program are not subject to review under the Regulatory Review Act, Commonwealth Documents Law or the Commonwealth Attorneys Act.
Bonds to fund the program would be issued under the existing Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority.
Here are several white papers prepared by the Wolf Administration on each of the major components of Restore PA--
-- Downstream Manufacturing (Natural Gas Use)
“We have a real opportunity to make impactful infrastructure investments in Pennsylvania. Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan presented that can actually address the needs in every community,” said Gov. Wolf. “We have an opportunity to provide all of our students internet access, an opportunity to help our municipalities truly address the crippling effects of blight, an opportunity to help families devastated by flooding when the federal government turns its back on them, and so much more. We need to seize this opportunity for all Pennsylvanians.”
“I am proud to stand with Governor Tom Wolf, Senator Killion, Representative Wheatley and Representative Murt in support of Restore PA, a bipartisan proposal that imposes a responsible severance tax on natural gas that can fund much needed public infrastructure projects in every Pennsylvania county,” said Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “Passing Restore PA will create a 21st century infrastructure system that enhances our roads, our flood and storm water management systems as well as expanding access to essential broadband internet services that improve public safety, health care access, and economic development opportunities for underserved communities throughout Pennsylvania.”
“I am pleased to introduce this important legislation along with Senator Yudichak,” said Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware). “Well-working infrastructure is critical to our economy and job growth. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that doesn’t tax that finite natural resource. Restore Pennsylvania will revolutionize how critical infrastructure projects are funded, and I am proud to work with the Governor and my colleagues in the legislature to get this done for our communities and working families.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Wolf stood with a bipartisan group of legislative members to announce the Restore Pennsylvania proposal, citing the need to invest in infrastructure across Pennsylvania.
Since then, Gov. Wolf and his administration have made more than 75 stops in communities across the state, garnering official endorsements from more than 60 stakeholders and municipal leaders, and verbal support from hundreds more.
Funded by the monetization of a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania will invest $4.5 billion over the next four years in significant, high-impact projects throughout the Commonwealth to help catapult Pennsylvania ahead of every state in the country in terms of technology, development, and infrastructure.
Keeping the Act 13 drilling impact fee in place, Restore Pennsylvania will provide resources to communities that disproportionately receive impact fee funding, allowing all municipalities to complete much-needed infrastructure projects and improving the quality of life for Pennsylvanians in every corner of the Commonwealth.
Encompassing new and expanded programs to address priority infrastructure areas, Restore Pennsylvania projects will be driven by local input about local needs.
Projects identified by local stakeholders will be evaluated through a competitive process to ensure that high-priority, high-impact projects are funded and needs across Pennsylvania are met.
Visit the Wolf Administration’s Restore Pennsylvania webpage for more information.
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[Posted: June 6, 2019]
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