Pennsylvania voters back $625 Growing Greener II

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, 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 Homeland Security.

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."

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