Pennsylvania Votes to Borrow $400M for Water, Sewers

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, November 6, 2008 (ENS) - Pennsylvania voters have approved a $400 million bond issue that will allow the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority to award grants and loans for water treatment systems and pipelines.

With 99.6 percent of precincts reporting, the referendum received more than 2.8 million "yes" votes and 1.7 million "no" votes.

Critics of the referendum argued that Pennsylvanians already owe $110 billion in state debt, not including the additional $3 billion passed in the 2008-09 state budget. They are wary of taking on new debt in the current economic climate.

The money will be available for municipally owned drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems in all parts of the state, in communities large and small, urban and rural.

The funding will be available to the 183 publicly owned water systems in Pennsylvania that are facing federal mandates to reduce nutrient pollution in the Susquehanna and Potomac river basins and downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

"Pennsylvanians from different parts of the state and from all party affiliations overwhelmingly chose to create new jobs and make an important down payment on our economic future and the quality of life in our communities," said Governor Edward Rendell.

"Our water and sewer systems - as well as other critical components of our infrastructure - are in need of substantial investments to ensure quality, dependable services that will position our economy to grow," the governor said.

The Sustainable Infrastructure Task Force convened by the governor early this year released a report last week that listed at least $36.5 billion in capital repairs and upgrades that are needed statewide over the next 20 years to maintain service.

The task force estimates that Pennsylvania will need to spend another $77.1 billion for operation, maintenance and debt service.

"This is part of a larger national problem," Governor Rendell said. "Across the country, we're confronted with a staggering total national infrastructure shortfall of $1.6 trillion. That unmet need affects the quality of not only roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, it also applies to our airports and rail freight lines - important services that businesses rely on to ship their goods and supplies. If we don't act quickly, that deficit will continue to grow and we will see our infrastructure fall further into disrepair.

"And, with our nation's economy slowing, now's the time to make these investments," he said. "These projects will support tens of millions of jobs that are necessary to build these systems and maintain them."

The $400 million bond issue approved Tuesday is expected to support 12,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

{Photo: Philadelphia water fountain by Veronica Leto}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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