Monday, June 24, 2019

House Moves State Budget Cutting Community Environmental Project Funding, Makes Unconstitutional Transfers From The Oil & Gas Fund

The apparently agreed-to General Fund budget reported out of the House Appropriations Committee June 24 cuts funding for community-based environmental resources, mine reclamation and recreation projects by about $10 million from the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund.
The budget also takes money out of the Environmental Stewardship ($13.793 million) and Recycling ($10 million) funds to pay for the day-to-day operating costs of the Department of Environmental Protection.
While the budget would pay for debt service-- $20 million or so-- for the Growing Greener 2 bond issue from the General Fund rather than taking it from the Environmental Stewardship Fund, the proposal also reduces the amount of money transferred into the ESF Fund from the Marcellus Legacy Fund by nearly $20 million.
The net loss to the ESF is about $10 million.
The budget proposal would increase the amount transferred from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to DCNR to pay for $37.78 million in its day-to-day operating costs-- $14.28 million for State Parks and $17.71 million for State Forests.  
This means $37.78 million will not be available to pay for maintenance and conservation projects in State Parks and Forests.
These transfers were declared unconstitutional by the PA Supreme Court in 2017.
Over $20.902 million in DEP administrative costs previously paid by the General Fund will be covered by special fund transfers from Environmental Stewardship and Recycling funds.  These costs include--
-- $14.853 million in personnel costs;
-- $2.5 million in support for county conservation districts; and
-- $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.
These changes make DEP’s budget even more dependent on fees to run the agency since both the Recycling and Environmental Stewardship funds are supported by fees on municipal waste disposed in Pennsylvania, rather than general tax money.
Note: The General Fund appropriations for DEP in FY 2019-20 will be $135.147 million.  In the FY 1994-95 General Fund budget, DEP received $165.6 million. The General Fund appropriation for DEP in FY 2002-03 was $219.943 million.
In addition to the Oil and Gas Lease Fund transfers, the $2.25 million appropriation for DCNR’s Heritage Parks Program will come out of the Environmental Stewardship, rather than from the General Fund, further reducing available monies for community-based recreation projects.
No transfers were made from the Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund to pay for DCNR operating costs.
The General Fund budget bill is House Bill 790. Click Here for a copy of the 2019-20 Budget Spreadsheet.
Still to come are related budget bills to amend the Fiscal Code, Administrative Code and Tax Code with the potential for environmental riders.
Scorecard So Far - Nothing
So the scorecard so far for the environment looks like this--
-- NOTHING - River & Stream Cleanup: $257 million needed this year to implement the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.  Failure to address this funding issue will push back the achievement of 2025 nutrient reduction goals by 19 years to 2044 [There may be a very few dollars set aside for some on farm conservation practices;
-- NOTHING - State Park & Forest Maintenance: $100 million needed to address over $1 billion in backlogged State Park and Forest maintenance.
[Note: This information will be updated and corrected as more information becomes available.]

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner