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Corbett Budget: $45M For State Parks, Forests, More Gas Leasing, DEP Staff Cut

Gov. Tom Corbett Tuesday presented his 2014-15 budget to the General Assembly, telling lawmakers that the $29.4 billion spending plan continues to drive the values of strategic investment and prudent fiscal management to address the Commonwealth’s core funding needs.

His 2014-15 budget proposal includes the Enhance Penn’s Woods initiative announced Saturday, a 2-year, more than $200 million effort to repair and upgrade State Parks and State Forests through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The program includes $45 million in additional monies from interest on the Growing Greener II bond funds and existing funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund and the Dirt and Gravel Road Program.

The budget proposal also relies on additional leasing of natural gas rights in State Forests to generate $75 million more in revenue to DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund.  The Governor’s Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said additional leasing would be near existing drilling sites and gas companies would not be allowed to construct new well pads.

Secretary Zogby said Gov. Corbett would be issuing a new Executive Order to replace the Executive Order Gov. Rendell issued in 2010 a few days before the gubernatorial election imposing a moratorium on leasing additional State Forest land.  The Rendell Administration leased 137,000 acres of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

No reduction in DCNR’s complement was proposed

The Governor’s budget proposes to reduce the complement of the Department of Environmental by another 66 positions to 2,663.  Over the last 12 years, DEP’s complement has been reduced by 548 positions since FY 2002-03 or 17 percent.

The Governor proposed a $3.1 million increase in the Watershed Protection and Restoration funding allocation from the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund as well as a $1 million reduction from the same Fund for abandoned mine reclamation.

Other highlights of the proposed budget include--

Department of Environmental Protection: $10 million increase, 7.8 percent, in General Fund support, from $127.6 million to $137.6 million.

-- $24 million increase in Dirt and Gravel Road funding from Transportation Funding Plan

-- $2.5 million Conservation Districts, no change

-- $3.1 million increase in Growing Greener funding for Watershed Protection & Restoration

-- $1 million reduction in Growing Greener funding for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

-- $200,000 cut in Sewage Facilities Planning Grants, zeroed out

-- $500,000 cut in Delaware River Basin Commission, 53.6 percent

-- $500,000 cut to Household Hazardous Waste Program, 50 percent

-- $43.8 million in Environmental Stewardship Funds going to pay Growing Greener II bond debt service.

Context: DEP General Fund budget in FY 2002-03 was $245.6 million, now reduced to $139.9 million, and its full-time salaried staff complement was 3,211, now reduced to 2,663 over the last 13 years. Total funding from all sources in FY 2002-03 was $728.3 million, in FY 2014-15 $689.3 million.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: $2.9 million decrease, 9.9 percent, in General Fund support from $30 million to $27 million.  $117.4 million in funding for general agency operation is again being made up from the Oil and Gas Fund.

-- $6 million increase in Dirt and Gravel Roads funding from Transportation Funding Plan

-- $2.2 million cut from Heritage Parks, zeroed out

Context:  DCNR General Fund budget in FY 2002-03 was $108.8 million, now reduced to $27 million. DCNR's total budget in FY 2002-03 from all sources was $322.9 million, in FY 2014-15 $326.1 million.  Agency complement is now 1,382, in FY 2002-03 it was 1,391.

Department of Agriculture: $2 million decrease in General Government Operations and other cuts resulting in a 0.1 percent increase in General Fund support to $123.8 million.

-- $10 million Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation Tax Credit, no change

-- $869,000 Conservation Districts, no change

-- $2.7 million Nutrient Management Fund, no change

-- $787,000 cut in Agricultural Research, zeroed out

-- $350,000 cut in Hardwoods Research & Promotion, zeroed out

Context: Agriculture’s General Fund budget in FY 2002-03 was $76.1 million million, in FY 2014-15 budget is $123.8  million.  Total funding from all sources in FY 2002-03 was $213.8 million and in FY 2014-15 is $313.3 million.  There was no decrease in Agriculture’s complement proposed for FY 2014-15.

Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund: Total allocation from the Fund will be reduced to $113.9 million from $186.5 million last year.

-- County Grants - $11.8 million, $11.7 million last year

-- Commonwealth Financing Authority - $15.7 million, $44.4 million last year

-- Commonwealth Financing Authority H2O Program - $9.8 million, $27.7 million last year

-- Community & Economic Development - Zeroed out, $7.4 million last year

-- Environmental Protection - Zeroed out, $19.9 million last year

-- PennVEST - $9.8 million, $27.7 million last year

-- Highway Bridge Improvement - $19.7 million, $19.5 million last year

-- Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund - $42.8 million, $27.8 million last year

-- Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund - $3.9 million, zero last year

Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund: Total allocation from the Fund to DCNR will be reduced to $51.3 million, from $112.2 million last year.

State System Of Higher Education

-- PA Center for Environmental Education - zeroed out for 4rd year a $368,000 cut

-- McKeever Environmental Center - zeroed out for 5th year a $213,000 cut

Environmental Hearing Board: 3.2 percent increase to $2.2 million from $2.1 million

Click Here for links to all the Governor’s budget documents.

Budget Hearings

Next week the General Assembly will begin public hearings on Gov. Corbett’s budget request. 

The hearings on DCNR’s budget will be held February 19 in the Senate and February 25 in the House.  The hearings on DEP’s budget will both be held on February 18 in the Senate and February 19 House.

NewsClips:

Corbett Budget Expands Drilling In State Forests From Existing Well Pads

Corbett Hopes To Raise $75M Thru Gas Leases In State Forests

Corbett Budget Reopens Drilling Issue

Corbett Discusses State Park, Forest Drilling Proposal

Corbett To OK Gas Extraction From Under State Land

Corbett Wants To Allow More Gas Drilling In State Forests

Corbett Promises $45 Million For State Parks, Forests

Corbett Plan To Increase Gas Leasing Has Advocates Worried

Agriculture Programs Brace For Hit Under Corbett Budget

Corbett Proposes DRBC Budget Cut As Drilling Stalemate Continues

CBF Urges Corbett To Include Clean Water Investments In Budget

PEC Supports Restoration Of DCNR Oil & Gas Fund

PA Quickly Finds Ways To Spend Shale Gas Revenues

Editorial: Corbett Should Ignore Lure Of Easy Money From Drilling


2/10/2014

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