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Don't Trade Away Clean Water and Air - Letter to the PA General Assembly

News for 09.22.17
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September 20, 2017
Dear Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly,

As faith-based organizations and leaders across Pennsylvania, we urge you to oppose any budget deal that would trade away clean air and water and unfairly tax lower income and working families.

We are compelled by our various religious traditions to protect the most vulnerable among us – those living in poverty, the very young, the very old, and the medically fragile. We are also called upon to protect God’s irreplaceable gift of creation. The initial budget deal, which included HB 542, fails on both these fronts.

This bill would unfairly hurt Pennsylvanians twice, first by imposing new individual taxes to balance the budget, and second by affecting public health with increased air and water pollution.

HB 542 would have us all pay more for home heating and electricity, plus our cell phones. Those at lower income levels already spend disproportionately more of their paychecks on utilities. Many seniors on fixed income can ill afford more taxes on essential items.

We understand that this year’s budget gap has forced difficult choices, but the last place we should turn when plugging the hole in state finances is the individual taxpayer. Elected officials should make a moral commitment to shield their constituents from such a predicament.

Even though some of the natural gas heating tax funds will go to low income heating assistance this is not enough to offset the impact to low- and middle-income families.

Adding insult to injury, the budget deal would shred air and water protections by creating a political review committee that can block clean air protections, setting arbitrary deadlines for automatic approval of drilling permits even if there is not sufficient environmental review, and outsourcing the review of drilling permits to private companies.

Our citizens deserve leaders who will protect Pennsylvania families, not provide giveaways to the oil and gas lobby.

We must instead find fair and sustainable sources of revenue that prevent taxpayers from ending up on the losing end of backroom deals that their legislators make at the expense of pocketbooks and their health.

Please protect your constituents and God’s creation: VOTE AGAINST any budget deal that harms low- and middle-income families and trades away our air and water.

Organizational signers

Environmental Justice Center, Chestnut Hill United Church Joy Bergey, Director

Environmental Justice Committee, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church Courtenay Willcox, Moderator
Bryn Mawr

Mainline Interfaith Green Group Courtenay Willcox, Convener South Eastern Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Rev. Sandra Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach Harrisburg

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light Cricket Hunter
State College

The Shalom Center
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Executive Director Philadelphia

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Sr. Nora Nash, OSF, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility Aston

Sisters of St. Joseph Earth Center Sr. Mary Elizabeth Clark, Director Philadelphia

Individual signers

Rabbi Linda Holtzman Tikkun Olam Chavurah Philadelphia

Rev. Kipp Gilmore-Clough
Associate Pastor, Chestnut Hill United Church Philadelphia

Rev. Doug Hunt
Vice President, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

Rev. Neal Jones
Minister, Main Line Unitarian Church Philadelphia

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Faculty, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Wyncote

Rev. Linda Noonan
Senior Pastor, Chestnut Hill United Church Philadelphia

Rev. Cheryl Pyrch
Pastor, Summit Presbyterian Church Philadelphia

Rabbi Daniel Swartz
Rabbi, Temple Hesed
President, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

Betsy Teutsch
Chair, Fair Trade Judaica Philadelphia

Rabbi Ellen Weaver
Rabbinic pastor, Weaving Wholeness Philadelphia

Peter Winslow
Board member, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

For individual signers, affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.