Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Gov. Wolf’s Budget Proposal Repairs Damage To Environmental Funding Done Last Year; Proposes Additional Funding For FY 2020-21

On February 4, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed an FY 2020-21 state budget that restores many of the cuts made to environmental funding in last year’s budget, and frees up more than $43 million in funding for community-based farm conservation, watershed restoration and recreation projects.
The budget also proposes a $1/ton increase in the municipal waste tipping fee to provide $22.6 million to fund Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund in addition to $18.7 million transferred from the Act 13 Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund (which includes $15 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund).
The Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund deals with PFAS contamination and other hazardous substance cleanups.
The budget proposal also supports adding additional staff to address critical environmental protection programs, including Air Quality, to implement the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Plan and for State Parks and Forest operations.
The budget uses the $45 million in supplemental funding authorizations for DEP and DCNR in FY 2019-20 to backfill many of the General Fund cuts and cuts in environmental project funding made in the FY 2019-20 state budget.
As previously announced, the Governor is also pushing for enactment of the $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania Infrastructure Plan, a new $1.1 billion Lead and Asbestos Hazards Abatement Program and pipeline safety legislation.
For the first time in a decade, the FY 2020-21 General Fund budget for DEP is proposed to be funded above 1994-95 levels. 
The proposal provides $171.6 million in General Fund support for DEP, above where it was in 1994-95-- $165.6 million.
If the General Fund appropriation from 1994-95 had just kept up with inflation with no other increase, the appropriation to DEP would now be $285.67 million.  
The proposal again calls for the estimated $20 million in debt service payment for the Growing Greener II bond issue to come from General Fund revenues and not from the Environmental Stewardship Fund.
Moving forward, the FY 2020-21 proposal puts about $7.26 million in funding for conservation districts and regional water agencies like the Delaware and Susquehanna River Basin Commission back on the General Fund rather than taking it out of the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund.
These moves would free up about $27.26 million in funding for community-based watershed restoration, recreation and other environmental improvements.
$4.5 Billion Restore PA Proposal - Again
Gov. Tom Wolf vowed to continue his fight to fund Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure needs with Restore Pennsylvania supported by a new severance tax on natural gas production.
First unveiled as part of last year’s budget, the bipartisan proposal is still the only plan presented in the Commonwealth that can aggressively fund broadband, flooding, recreation, environmental restoration and other critical infrastructure projects.  Click Here for more.
$1.1 Billion Lead, Asbestos Initiative 
Gov. Tom Wolf announced a series of proposed 2020-21 budget items totaling more than $1.1 billion to support reducing the risks to Pennsylvanians of lead and asbestos, and remediating existing toxins in schools, day care centers, homes, and public water systems. Click Here for more.
Pipeline Safety Legislation
The budget calls for action on legislation to address pipeline safety, including setback proposals, to provide information and leak response advice to schools or childcare centers in close proximity to a pipeline, and notifications to residents and municipalities in advance of drilling by pipeline companies.  Click Here for more.
Gov. Wolf issued a similar call for action in February, 2019.  Click Here for more.
Budget Specifics
Some specific initiatives included in the FY 2020-21 budget proposal are--
-- $1.5 million for 15 new Air Quality Program staff
-- $1 million million for 10 new staff to implement Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Plan
-- $1/ton increase in the municipal waste tipping fee to provide $22.6 million to fund Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund
-- Use of $36.6 million in FY 2019-20 supplemental funding (part of the $45 million allocation authority) to increase General Fund line items and reduce the need to use environmental special funds to pay administrative expenses.
-- Use of Personal Income Tax revenue to fund debt service payments for Growing Greener II bond issue instead of coming from Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund
-- Funding shifted back to the General Fund and not the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund for $2.5 million to support county conservation districts; $873,000 in costs for the Delaware and Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River, Interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, Delaware River Master; $2.25 million for  DCNR’s Heritage Parks Program-- total $7.26 million.
-- $2.5 million increase in DCNR operations to hire 25 State Park & Forests staff
-- Use of $17.27 million in FY 2019-20 supplemental funding (part of the $45 million allocation authority) to reduce, but not eliminate use of Oil and Gas Fund revenue to pay operating costs.
-- $69.8 million is again proposed to be transferred out of the Oil and Gas Fund to pay operating costs for DCNR ($14.8 million), State Parks ($20 million), State Forests ($20 million), including $18.7 million to the Marcellus Legacy Fund for re-transferring to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
-- $2.25 million for Heritage and Other Parks Program
Tax Credit Programs:
-- $20 million for coal waste-fired power plants tax credits
-- $13 million for Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation Tax Credit
Links To Budget Documents:
Click Here for the Budget “Big” Book and other Office of the Budget supporting documents.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA issued the following statement on Gov. Wolf's proposed budget from Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell
“Chesapeake Bay Foundation is pleased that, in the Governor’s budget proposal, the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) would no longer be used to pay debt service on the Growing Greener Fund. Those extra ESF dollars can be spent to plant more trees, address acid mine drainage, and protect additional acres of productive farmland.
“We also see Governor Wolf’s plans to increase funding for the Department of Environmental Protection as a positive step toward protecting and restoring water quality in Pennsylvania.
“Clean water is critical to the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, according to scientific assessments by the state, roughly 40 percent of rivers and streams in the Commonwealth are considered to be polluted.
“While this budget would reinvest in critical agencies and programs if approved by the legislature, it remains unclear how the state will close the over $320 million shortfall in investments toward meeting its obligations to clean up Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams.
“Ultimately, it’s up to state lawmakers to ensure that the funding is there to assist Pennsylvania’s farms, families, and communities to restore and protect our land, water, and air.
“CBF looks forward to working with the Governor and legislators toward a legacy of clean water for future generations.”
PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo issued the statement on the proposed FY 2020-21 budget--
"The Governor’s budget reflects a good effort on his part to address important programs related to environmental protection in Pennsylvania. 
“The exception is the elephant in the room: adequate funding for the implementation of the significant number of best management practices needed throughout the Susquehanna River basin if we are to seriously address clean water locally, and eventually in the Chesapeake Bay. 
“On balance, when we take into consideration the truly big picture—the climate crisis and the resiliency of our communities and state’s economy—until a future governor takes bold steps and makes audacious investments in renewable energy, efficiency and climate-right growth, we will be left behind and neighboring states like New Jersey and New York will reap the benefits of the new clean-energy economy." 
HeritagePA had this reaction to Gov. Wolf's budget proposal-- "HeritagePA, along with the leadership from the 12 state heritage areas, applaud Governor Wolf for restoring line-item funding for the Heritage Areas Program in his proposed 2020-21 budget.
“The Heritage Area Program is a comprehensive, multi-faceted regional strategic initiative to conserve and enhance the Commonwealth’s rich natural, cultural, and industrial history, and to promote a region’s heritage for tourism.  
“Without a dedicated line-item in the state budget, this program runs the risk of not being fully funded during a time when tourism revenue is greatly needed throughout the state.
“HeritagePA calls on the state legislature to support this critical line-item funding throughout budget negotiations and to ensure that it is included in the final bill.
Established in 1989, Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas Program is a national model operating in 57 of 67 counties throughout the Commonwealth, with 6 of the 12 areas also designated as National Heritage Areas. 
Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas encompass almost every major historical site, population center, and tourist attraction that Pennsylvania has to offer.
For more information, visit the HeritagePA website.
Republican Reaction
Senate and House Republicans offered their general, initial reactions to Gov. Wolf’s FY 2020-21 budget proposal.  Click Here for more.
[Note: This post will be updated as new information becomes available.]

(Photo: The seeds of something that could grow to meet the real funding needed to meet Pennsylvania’s environmental obligations.)
Recent Related Budget Articles:
[Posted: February 4, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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