Pennsylvania might soon benefit from an infusion of more than $7 billion from federal COVID relief funds, in addition to a potential $3 billion projected budget surplus.
In the weeks ahead, it will be incumbent upon state elected officials to determine the best use of this newfound money. Given past priorities and recipients of similar funds, this level of flexibility leaves many rightfully concerned that such a unique moment of opportunity may be squandered.
Instead of falling back on tried-and-failed policies and initiatives, let’s use the money how it’s designed. As mentioned in PennFuture’s “A Green Stimulus and Recovery Platform for Pennsylvania” report, the pandemic has placed a burden on water and wastewater utilities because of massive revenue losses and, as a consequence, much-needed water infrastructure projects have been delayed or abandoned across Pennsylvania.
We’re advocating that a portion of this money—at least $500 million—be invested in our water resources which in turn supports jobs, a vibrant recreation economy, and supplies our drinking water. In addition, we are also advocating for dedicated funding through a program such as the creation of a Clean Streams Fund as well as a reinvigorated Growing Greener III program.
Poll after poll demonstrates wide, bipartisan support for increases in state investments for clean water. Most recently, a poll commissioned by Conservation Voters of PA and the Growing Greener Coalition in the fall of 2020 showed that nearly 90 percent of voters support funding for Pennsylvania's land, water and wildlife, even during the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic.