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Push To Restore Funding For Parks Projects

A fund for park projects was slashed in early spending proposals from the governor and state Senate, but it may have new life in budget talks, if House members have their way.

It's commonly called the Keystone Fund or "Key 93," money set off to the side of the main state budget dedicated to state and community park projects.

It collects 15% of state tax revenue on things like property sales. It was created in 1993 after receiving bipartisan support and clearing a voter referendum.

Governor Corbett eliminated all $38 million for the program and wants the tax revenues instead to go to the general fund. The Senate has proposed cutting the funding to $19 million. The House has voted to restore the full $38 million.

State Representative Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) said zeroing out the Keystone Fund would eventually mean less money for the upkeep of park facilities.

"One of the things you've got to do is maintain your parks, your trails, your playground equipment, your ball fields," said Harper. "You have to take care of those things, or they can't be used. They're unsafe."

Harper wants to remind the governor that the reason the fund exists at all is because it cleared a referendum to voters.

"They were willing to have real estate transactions taxed as long as some of that money went into taking care of and getting more parks," Harper said, "and so I really think that the message that we need to send to the governor is, 'We understand that it's a bad budget year, but you need to leave this fund alone.'"

Representative Bill Adolph (R-Delaware County), who has a seat at the negotiations table as chair of the House Appropriations committee, is advocating for the fund's full restoration. The next step, he said, is to persuade Senate lawmakers and the governor.

"There's no criticism of the program, it was just a matter of revenue," Adolph said. "Transferring one revenue source into the General Appropriations. But I think it should be a dedicated funding source, and I'm making my points known at the table."

But he's not making any hard and fast promises. He said he feels "comfortable" the fund will be protected, but "anything could happen."