The funding picture for environmental programs in Gov. Corbett's proposed budget is not pretty, and took hits like other parts of the budget, but not as dramatically as last year. DEP and the Growing Greener Fund had the biggest reductions from already reduced levels.
Gov. Corbett also announced the formation of a Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission to "oversee how we can build around this new industry and how we can make certain we do this while protecting our lands, our drinking water, our air – all the time growing our workforce."
Overall in the state budget, Gov.Corbett presented a 2011-12 budget that is balanced and does not raise taxes for the residents of Pennsylvania. The most significant cuts came in basic education, returning it to 2008-09 levels and a 50 percent cut in support for some higher education institutions, along with the elimination of 103 budget line-items, cutting nearly $850 million.
Funding for the Department of Environmental Protection was decreased to $679.3 million from $839.3 million, most as a result of the federal stimulus project funds not being available. The General Fund portion was reduced to $139.9 million from $147 million this year.
Authorized complement for DEP is proposed to be reduced by 69 positions (vacancies) to 2,770.
Conservation District funding in the budgets for DEP and Agriculture will remain the same, the first time in 8 years a Governor did not propose a cut.In other cuts, $3.4 million was eliminated for flood control projects.
The budget for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources largely remains the same due to increased use of special funds like the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.
The overall budget for DCNR was increased to $284 million from $282 million, with the General Fund portion decreasing to $58.3 million from $82.4 million this year.
DCNR would see an increase in funding available from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to $43 million from $27.7 million in the current year. Funds available for Parks and Forestry Facility Rehabilitation would increase to $19.8 million from $12.7 million, Local Recreation Grant funds would increase to $16.5 from $10.6 million and funding for Land Trusts would increase to $6.6 from $4.2 million. There is no transfer of funds proposed from the Keystone Fund to the General Fund.Funding available to DCNR from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund would increase to $65 million from $35 million this year, including $15 million specifically for State Parks. There is no transfer of funds from the Oil and Gas Fund to the state General Fund.
In DCNR the number of positions will stay the same at 1,389.
The budget for the Department of Agriculture will decrease to $247 million from $262 million this year. Staff positions would be reduced by 7 to 611.
The Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Farm Conservation Tax Credit was increased to $10 million from $4.5 million from last year.
Growing Greener FundThe Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund is proposed to support $69.8 million in debt service payments and projects, down from $112.8 million this fiscal year as a result of the end of bond funding from Growing Greener II.
Debt service payments would increase from $36.8 to $42.5 million.
Watershed grants would decrease from $42.2 to $10.2 million. Funding for abandoned mine reclamation and sewage and drinking water grants would be zeroed out. DCNR Community Conservation Grants would be reduced from $18.8 to $5.7 million. Funding for PennVEST would be reduce to $6.4 million from $7.4 million.
Growing Greener support for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program would decrease slightly to $4 million from $4.6 million.
Other Budget Items
-- Regulatory reform. To maintain economic momentum and competitiveness, state government needs to evaluate its permit process, eliminating backlogs and expediting actions that may result in the creation of jobs.
-- Friction-free processes for government interaction with job creators are critical tomaintain economic momentum and competitiveness. State government needs to be a partner with job creators. To address the length of time agencies take to act on permits and eliminate permit backlogs, PennDOT and DEP have begun auditing and assessing all of their permit processes to make themmore responsive to the needs of job creators.
In addition, the DCED secretary is empowered to expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.
-- Environmental Education: In the budget for the State System of Higher Education, funding for the PA Center for Environmental Education and McKeever Environmental Education Center is proposed to be eliminated.
Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission
Links: Text of budget address