Updated: New Budget Erases 16 Years Of General Fund Support For Environmental Programs

More than 16 years of General Fund support for environmental protection, State Park and State Forest programs was erased by the new $28 billion General Fund budget agreed to by the Senate, House and Gov. Rendell this week.

           The Governor's Office confirmed these figures in a document released at the bill signing on July 6.  The Governor's Office said the General Fund appropriations for DEP was most like the 1994-95 level of appropriations, for DCNR it was the 1995-96 appropriation and for the Department of Agriculture it was the 1998-99 level.
            The FY 2010-11 General Fund appropriations to the DEP were cut $71.9 million below FY 2008-09 levels and $30.9 million below 08-09 levels for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
             During the last eight years of the Rendell Administration, DEP's General Fund budget has been cut by 40.9 percent, DCNR by 23.7 percent and the Department of Agriculture by 35.2 percent.
            As examples of the pain in the new budget, Gov. Rendell specifically pointed to: an additional 11.7 percent cut in the Department of Agriculture, an additional 9.2 percent cut in the Department of Environmental Protection and an additional 11 percent cut in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (specifically an additional cut of 7.3 percent in State Parks).
           Also approved Saturday were the related budget bills-- the Fiscal Code bill-- Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh)-- and the bills increasing the RCAP capital budget spending by $600 million-- House Bill 2290 (D.Evans-D-Philadelphia) and House Bill 2289 (D.Evans).
            In addition to the budget line items, the Senate and House promised to adopt a Marcellus Shale natural gas production tax Gov. Rendell wanted by October 1 to be effective January 1, 2011, but those revenues are not counted toward balancing the budget.
            See the detailed table below showing changes in some line items.
            The full FY 2010-11 budget spreadsheet is available online.
            The Governor said the cuts will require about 1,000 layoffs of state workers, although the numbers are still being worked through given the line item numbers.
            The FY 2009-10 budget cuts required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions and DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers.
            In addition, before DEP starting hiring Marcellus Shale natural gas regulatory staff, the agency lost 19 percent of its staff and positions, about 600 positions.
            In contrast to private industry facing cuts in revenue, state agencies do not have their obligations reduced, no environmental laws and programs have been repealed and  DEP and DCNR are expected to do all the same things they did before.
            Further budget cuts at DEP means further delays in processing permits that will hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in business and municipal projects.

            Other Key Budget Topics

-- Natural Gas Severance Tax: There is language in the Fiscal Code bill--  Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh)--  committing the General Assembly to adopt legislation enacting a Marcellus Shale natural gas production tax by October 1, effective January 1.  Gov. Rendell said he would be setting up a special commission over the summer to start work immediately on the details of the tax.

-- Special Fund Transfers: $2.7 million from the Low-Level Radioactive Waste  Siting Fund (defunct), $800,000 from the PennDOT Highway Beautification Fund and the State System of Higher Education portion of the Keystone Fund to help balance the budget, but not the DCNR portion.  There transfers are contained in the Fiscal Code bill-- Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh).

-- Energy/Water Infrastructure Cuts: Two of the largest individual cuts in the DEP budget were $15 million in consumer energy efficiency rebates and $10.4 million in Safe Water Infrastructure Project grants.

-- DCNR Forestry: A $4 million lumber stumpage account has been set up with State Forest timber revenue to help offset cuts in DCNR's State Forest line item.

-- REAP Farm Conservation Tax Credit: The the Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation Tax Credit remains at $4.5 million for the new year, a cut of $5.5 million from two years ago.   The Education Improvement Tax Credit was increased from the previously scheduled $50 million to $60 million for FY 2010-11 and the Film Production Tax Credit remains at the scheduled $60 million.  The changes to these provisions are contained in the Fiscal Code bill-- Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh).

-- RCAP Capital Budget: House Bill 2290 (D.Evans-D-Philadelphia) and House Bill 2289 (D.Evans) increasing the RCAP Capital Budget indebtedness by $600 million as agreed to in the budget deal.

-- Environmental/Other Permit Extensions: The Fiscal Code bill-- Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh)-- provides for environmental, planning and other permit extensions for development upon application for a period of one year if the permits were issued between December 31, 2008 and before July 2, 2013 (formerly Senate Bill 569 (Pileggi-R-Delaware) and House Bill 1056 (M.O'Brien-D-Philadelphia) and any requirements that have changed since the original permit was issued will not have an impact on whether an extension is granted.

-- Heritage Areas: The Fiscal Code bill-- Senate Bill 1042 (Browne-R-Lehigh)-- establishes the DCNR Heritage Areas Program in law.

-- Transportation Funding: The Governor said he would be calling another special session on transportation funding and is planning to meet with legislative leaders to go over revenue options on July 20.

-- No Federal Medicaid Funding Means More Cuts/Furloughs: The budget numbers do assume Pennsylvania will receive all or a portion of the $850 million in federal Medicaid funding with an understanding adjustments will be made later if needed.  
            Gov. Rendell said he would start sequestering money at the end of July if the federal funding does not come through.  Sequestering money means potentially thousands of state worker layoffs, elimination of the $250 million increase in basic education funding and using most or all of the projected new Marcellus Shale natural gas production severance tax revenue.

            Fees Substitute For General Fund
            The Environmental Quality Board and the Department of Environmental Protection have finalized or proposed permit fee increases for DEP totaling about $24.7 million to help offset the dramatic cuts in the agency's General Fund budget.  (see separate story)
            $1.3 Billion Diverted
            The budget just adopted for FY 2010-11means a total of $1.3 billion has been diverted or cut from environmental programs to help balance the state budget or to fund programs that could not get funding on their own over the last eight years.  (see separate story)
            New Agency
            At the same time the General Assembly and the Governor agreed on one of the most austere state budgets in its history, they took final action on House Bill 1186 (Digirolamo-R-Bucks) creating a new Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.  The bill also reorganizes the board governing PHEAA, the state-funded student loan agency.
            NewsClips: Group Criticizes DEP Budget Cut
                                Environmental Advocate Troubled By Cuts At DEP, DCNR
                                PA Budget Cuts Hit Some Hard
                                Ag Secretary Reacts To Latest State Budget Cuts
                                Natural Gas Tax Foreseen By October
                                Lawmakers May Add Gas Production Tax
                                Pennsylvania Reaches Budget Deal On Natural Gas Tax
                                Scarnati Calls For Republicans To Lead On Environmental Issues
                                Marcellus Drillers Want Forced Pooling To Accompany Severance Tax
                                Challenges To Shale Gas Drilling Mount In Pennsylvania
                                PA Marcellus Shale Severance Tax Remains A Question Mark
                                Businesses Brace For Ripple Effect If State Workers Laid Off
                                State Workers Resigned To Layoffs
                                Rendell: We Have Contingency For Federal Dollars

                                Editorial: Drilling Operations Should Be Taxed
                                Editorial: Austerity Budgets Cut Public Programs
                                Editorial: On Time, But Not Much More
                                Editorial: It Meets Deadline But Not Our Needs
                                Editorial: Faux Budget, Hey Harrisburg Your Work's Not Done

FY 2010-11 General Fund Budget

FY 2008-09 FY 2009-10 FY 2010-11 FY 2002-03

Overall $76 million $67.8 million $62.7 million $96.8 million
Conservation Districts $1.66 million $1.65 million $1.039 million $1.2 million
Nutrient Mgmt.
$3.1 million $2.741 million

Land Use Planning $3.7 million $375,000 $357,000 $3.9 million

Overall $113.3 million $92.3 million $82.440 million $108 million
State Parks $59.6 million $50.3 million $46,714 million $61.7 million
State Forests $16.9 million $17.1 million $11,925 million $15.5 million
Heritage Parks $7.6 million - 0 - $350,000 $5.4 million

Overall $217.5 million $159 million $145,182 million $245.6 million
General Govt. $17.1 million $14.4 million $13,078 million $20.6 million
Env. Program Mgmt. $37.6 million $32.6 million $29,357 million $44.2 million
Env. Prot. Operations $98.5 million $85 million $79,344 million $76.3 million
Conservation Districts $3.6 million $3 million $2,914 million $3.3 million
Stormwater Mgmt. $2 million - 0 - -0- $1.2 million
Sewage Grants $1.8 million $1 million $866,000 $1.9 million
Sewage Enforcement $4.9 million $3 million $2,598 million $5 million

Repay Tank Fund $10 million $3 million - 0 - -0- - 0 -
St. System Higher Ed

PA Center for Environmental Ed $368,000 $368,000 $368,000 No Line Item
McKeever Environmental Center $213,000 $213,000 $213,000 $215,000




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