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General Assembly Takes up PA “Fair Share” Plan

May 23, 2008

Harrisburg, PA – State legislation to improve Pennsylvania's water systems has groups that normally are at odds with each other agreeing it's the right thing to do.

The "Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Improvement Act" (HB 2441) has been dubbed the "fair share proposal" by some. Introduced this week in the General Assembly, it would help sewer system ratepayers finance improvements that are required by law, and also would help farmers control agricultural pollution that runs into waters and streams.

Mark O'Neill, of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, says his organization believes paying for infrastructure improvements now will save money in the future for sewer system ratepayers, taxpayers, farmers and future homeowners.

"It's not a handout to farmers. It's an opportunity to help them pay for projects that help meet these goals. Overall, it could help the whole infrastructure of the state - along with, obviously, helping cleaner water efforts."

Other groups that support the legislation include the Municipal Authorities Association, Builders Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Bipartisan supporters say the millions of dollars needed to pay for improvements could come from existing state funds, with no tax increases needed.

Opponents of the bill say money is too tight to make that promise, however. There is also debate about how much Pennsylvania should spend to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, since the bay is located in Maryland and Virginia. Pennsylvania is part of the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - PA