May 18, 2005 (ENS): At the polls Tuesday, Pennsylvania
voters showed strong support for a controversial $625 million environmental
bond issue known as Growing Greener II.
The bond issue was the only statewide question on the ballot, added
in April, after a compromise was worked out between Democratic Governor
Ed Rendell, who has lobbied for the measure and the Republican controlled
Legislature, which has opposed it.
More than 60 percent of voters favored the bond issue. On the strength
of that vote, the Rendell administration hopes to negotiate a bipartisan
legislative measure that will allocate and pay for the bond.
The funds would be used for "maintenance and protection of
the environment, open space and farmland preservation, watershed
protection, abandoned mine reclamation, acid mine drainage remediation
and other initiatives," according to the ballot statement.
Republican legislators have fought renewal of the Growing Greener
funding initiatve although it was started in 1999 by then Governor
Tom Ridge, a Republican who served as the first U.S. Secretary of
Initially, Rendell had sought to borrow $800 million to proceed
with Growing Greener II, but Republicans did not like his proposal
to pay for the bond issue by imposing new and increased fees on
landfills and polluting industries.
But in coming to agreement with Republican state lawmakers, Rendell
joined the leadership in the state Senate and House in early May
to pledge that they would not propose new taxes or fees to pay off
the Growing Greener bond, if passed.
Still not all opposition was silenced. One newspaper editorial
stated the views of some opposed to Growing Greener II this way,
"Environmentalism - just one species of the tax-and-spend socialism
that has wounded Pennsylvania's economy - turns the government into
private-sector job killer..."
The Green Party did not support Growing Greener II, saying the
measure places the cost of cleaning up the environment on taxpayers
instead of on polluters.
But most Pennsylvania conservationists did back the bond issue.
In his statement of support Pennsylvania Environmental Council President
Andrew McElwaine said, "We need to act now to protect Pennsylvania's
quality of life. The longer we wait, the more clean streams, natural
areas, working farms and wildlife will disappear and be lost forever,
and the more expensive it gets to clean up."