Monday, December 17, 2018

House Democrats Say More DEP Funding A Priority For 2019-20 Budget

On December 17, House Republican Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor (R-York) and House Democratic Appropriations Chair Matthew Bradford (D-Montgomery) outlined their priorities for the 2019-20 in separate statements.
Rep. Saylor keep with the “no new taxes” and “live within our means” positions echoed  Senate and House Republican leadership comments last week before the mid-year budget review by the Governor’s Budget Secretary.
Rep. Bradford and House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said, in a interview, providing more state funding for education, especially in early education, providing access to health care and steering state funding to the Department of Environmental Protection so it can turn around environmental permits quicker.
Both Dermody and Bradford acknowledge that years of underfunding and staff attrition has hurt DEP's ability to handle permits sought by businesses.
"I believe that's the case (with DEP)," said Dermody. "We want everyone to follow the law."
"DEP unfortunately has gotten more than its fair share of those cuts," said Rep. Bradford. "I would challenge the business community which understandably complains about delays in permits. This isn't just a pro-environmental issue. This is about being pro-business and making sure DEP can function and turn around permits in a timely manner."
Rep. Saylor’s entire statement said, “As we head into the new legislative session, the focus of the House Republican Caucus will be on creating a budget that does not rely on new taxes or fees and that supports job creation.
“Revenue collections are strong, and the Commonwealth has collected $333 million more than expected through the end of November.  
“The budget secretary stated during his mid-year briefing that the administration expects to end the current fiscal year with a surplus.
“There has been a lot of chatter about the recent Independent Fiscal Office’s report. A deficit is only created when you spend more than you take in.
“We fully intend to enact a budget in the upcoming fiscal year that lives within current revenue projections. While I respect the IFO, they have historically overestimated the General Fund spend number.
“In November 2016, the IFO predicted the 2017-18 budget would be $33.4 billion and the enacted 2017-18 budget was $31.996 billion. That’s $1.4 billion lower than the IFO originally predicted.
“In November 2017, the IFO predicted the 2018-19 budget would be $33.5 billion and the enacted 2018-19 budget was $32.7 billion. That’s $800 million lower than the IFO originally predicted.
“The IFO’s predicted deficit is based on the assumption that we enact a $35.6 billion budget in 2019-20. There simply are no votes in the House Republican Caucus for a budget that large, and I doubt there are 93 votes for it in the House Democrat Caucus.
“House Republicans will continue to hold the line on new taxes. The people of Pennsylvania want a government that lives within its means and we intend to provide that.
“The governor’s budget secretary stated during the mid-year briefing that the governor’s focus for the next term will be to reduce and restrain spending to balance budgets.
“If the governor is serious about this, then House Republicans are ready to join him in that effort. Our focus will be creating a budget centered on economic growth for better job and career opportunities and setting Pennsylvania up for success in the long-term.”

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