Wednesday, September 13, 2017

House Republicans Move Bill To Take Over $317 Million From Environmental Funds, Debate Begins Tonight

House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon) [not House Bill 593] was amended in the House Rules Committee Wednesday with the House Republican plan to transfer over $317 million out of environmental and energy special funds to the General Fund to help balance the state’s budget.
Each member who voted for the Republican budget was responsible for cutting over $3 million in environmental funding.
The proposal would transfer a total of $630.5 million from special funds, which means environmental transfers make up more than half of the total transfers.
A previous version would have transferred over $453 million out of a total of $1.2 billion.
There is no natural gas severance tax in the proposal.
House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) said the House will begin debate on the House Republican revenue proposal tonight, but a vote, under House rules, cannot come before 9:30 or 10:00 this evening.
Here are the cuts and transfers from environmental and energy funds included in the House Republican plan--
-- Recycling Fund - $70 million (was $75 million)
-- Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund - $70 million (was $72.7 million
-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund - $50 million (was $100 million)
-- Multimodal Transportation Fund - $50 million (was $120 million)
-- Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund - $100 million (same)
-- County Conservation District Fund - $2.5 million (was $3.33 million)
-- Industrial Sites Cleanup Fund - $10 million (same)
-- Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Fund - $7.5 million (same)
-- Energy Development Fund - $3.96 million (was $3.94 million)
-- Environmental Education Fund - $500,000 (was $1.285 million)
-- Coal Lands Improvement Fund - $2 million (was $2.769 million)
-- Highway Beautification Fund - $500,000 (same)
-- Solid Waste-Resource Recovery Development Fund - $448,000 (same)
-- Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund - No transfer (was $27 million)
-- Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund - No transfer (was $50 million)
Other Provisions
The amendment included other provisions related to the environment, including--
-- NEW. Extends, Not Repeals Newark Shale Moratorium: Extends the existing ban on drilling in the Newark Shale natural gas deposits in the Southeast to January 1, 2024 from 2018.
-- Stays: Air Pollution Act Transfer: $30.4 million from a settlement by the Attorney General relating to violations of the Air Pollution Control Act by Volkswagen received during the fiscal year to the General Fund.
-- Stays: Oil and Gas Lease Fund: Annually transfer $20 million [supposed to be $35 million] from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund for distribution to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and $15 million transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund to transfer to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
-- Stays: Small Water And Sewer System Funding: $15 million available for small water and sewer projects with a cost of not less than $30,00 or more than $500,000.  Transfers an additional $10 million from Building PA Program to small water and sewer projects.
-- Stays: Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions: Authorizes the Auditor General to audit the river basin commissions and no more than 25 percent of the appropriations to the commissions may be spent in any quarter and the commissions shall reimburse the Auditor General for the cost of the audit.
-- Stays: Farm Succession Planning Grants: Allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for succession planning grants to continue agricultural operations.
-- Stays: Funding For Washington Crossing Historical Park: Requires $2.25 million of DCNR’s State Parks Operations line item to be expended on maintenance for Washington Crossing State Park.
-- Taken Out: Natural Gas Pipeline Fund: $6 million transfer from the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Pipeline Fund
-- Taken Out: Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: Allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.
-- Taken Out: Temporary Cessation Of Oil & Gas Wells: Provisions relating to payments of royalties during periods of nonproduction.
The remainder of the package includes--
-- Tobacco Settlement Fund monetization $1 billion (was $1.3 billion)
-- Gaming - $225 million
-- Additional LCB Transfer - $50 million
-- Joint Underwriting Association Transfer - $200 million
Click Here for a list of all special fund transfers.  Click Here for General Fund Financial Statement.
Click Here to watch the floor debate.
Remember, this is only the Fiscal Code bill, there is still the Tax Code-- House Bill 542 (Thomas-D-Philadelphia) and Administrative Code -- House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne)-- bills that both have troublesome provisions.
More And More Evidence And Opposition Piling Up:
-- PennDOT Warns Lawmakers Raiding Funds Jeopardizes Transit, Infrastructure Projects

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