Monday, June 30, 2014

Senate, House Republicans Approve $29 Billion Budget Relying Heavily On More Drilling

The Senate and House Republicans Monday approved, by party-line votes, a $29 billion General Fund budget with no tax increases, but which is based on $246.5 million in transfers from special funds, $95 million in additional “non-impact” natural gas leasing in State Parks and Forests, $20 million in DCNR timber sales and $75 million from a Philadelphia casino license that may or may not happen.
This compares to last year’s $28.5 billion budget and a $29.4 billion budget proposed by Gov. Corbett in February.
There has been no agreement on general pension reform, although pension reform for elected officials is making its way through the General Assembly.  It also does not include liquor privatization in any form.  Both pension reform and liquor privatization were Gov. Corbett’s key priorities.
Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), the only Senate Republican to vote against the budget, said,  “While a number of extremely important services and priorities are funded in the state budget, I have serious objections to balancing the budget through the use of revenue from additional fracking on state forest lands. Balancing the books at the expense of our natural resources is the wrong approach and sets a dangerous precedent going forward.
“A number of environmental groups have expressed serious concerns regarding the impact of opening more state lands to fracking, and sportsmen’s groups have voiced fears of the effect the additional drilling activity could have on our delicate ecosystems and wildlife. Given the gravity of these issues, I could not in good conscience support the spending plan in its current form.”
Here’s a thumbnail of the new budget--
-- Transfer $17.6 million Horse Racing Fund for Dept. of Agriculture operations
Environmental Protection
-- DEP Operations - $12.4 million increase
-- Sewage Facilities Planning Grants - $500,000 increase
-- Delaware River Basin Commission - $500,000 cut
-- Transfer of $6.2 million from Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant Fund
Conservation & Natural Resources
-- Heritage Parks Program - $2.75 million, up from $2.25 million last year
-- Transfer of $95 million from “non-impact drilling on DCNR Land
-- Transfer of $73 million from the Oil and Gas Fund for DCNR operations
-- Transfer of $20 million from State Forest Timber operations
-- NO transfer from Keystone Fund
Other Provisions
-- No transfer from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund
-- No suspension of tax credit programs like the farm conservation tax credit REAP or the Historic Preservation tax credit
Attorney General - $5 million increase
State Treasurer - $3.8 million increase
Auditor General - Flat funding
Judiciary - Flat funding
House - $1.9 million increase
Senate - $950,000 increase
Click Here for a copy of the line item spreadsheet.  Click Here for the budget balance and transfers sheet.
Sen. McIlhinney Lone Republican Voting Against Budget

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