House Democrats, Governor Reverse Course, Start With GOP Budget, Then Cut, Cut, Cut
After spending weeks saying the world would end if the Senate Republican budget was adopted, House Democrats and Gov. Rendell have now reversed course and are preparing a budget to bring the Republican budget before the House Monday.
"If the public wants a no-tax budget, they should very well see what a no-tax budget looks like," Speaker Keith McCall (D-Carbon) said, predicting severe cuts in aid to schools, highway projects and social service programs. "All of these lines will be cut, and cut substantially."
Speaker McCall rejected the idea that approving the stripped down budget was a scare tactic to convince Republicans (and some of their Democratic members) a broad-based tax increase was necessary.
"They've said 'no' to everything. What are we to do?" said Speaker McCall.
There will need to be about $1.7 billion in additional cuts to the Senate Republican budget to put it in balance. It is not clear whether an amendment will be offered on the House Floor to make those cuts or whether House Democrats will let Gov. Rendell blueline the budget, using his veto pen to eliminate all or parts of certain budget line items.
This would be the fifth round of cuts to environmental programs since February.
In terms of schedule, House rules require budget bills, once reported to the floor, be on the House Calendar for a week, meaning if Senate Bill 850 is reported out of House Appropriations Monday, the full House could not vote on the bill until July 27, unless they suspend the rules of course.
House Republicans Friday offered their own suggestions for balancing the Senate Republican budget. (click here to watch their press conference)
“Today, we’re presenting a $27.27 billion budget with no tax increases that ensures each school district gets increased funding. It continues necessary government services and avoids the thousands of layoffs projected by the governor and House Democrats," said House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R-Jefferson). "The Republican priority has always been protecting public safety, human services and educating our kids... our budget proposal accomplishes it.”
The House Republican plan would: divert the 25 cent per pack cigarette tax going to the MCare malpractice insurance fund to the General Fund, delay the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax for one year, tap into the Rainy Day Fund, encourage the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to lease more State Forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling and adopt a tax amnesty program.
In reaction to the House Republican proposal, Acting DCNR Secretary John Quigley said--
"It is simply disingenuous for the House Republicans to suggest that leasing an additional 390,000 acres of forest lands for gas development leaves 80 percent of the land intact. House Republicans completely and intentionally ignore the environmental, economic, recreational and cultural uses of the state forest."
"The first error is that there are 2.1 million acres of state forest land available for lease. While that is the total number of acres of state forest land that we Pennsylvanians own, only 1.5 million acres are in the Marcellus Shale geologic formation that contains deep natural gas reservoirs, and 660,000 of those acres are already under lease."(complete release)
A side by side comparison of budget line items is available comparing House Republican, Senate
Republican and the Governor's current budget is available online from House Republicans.
Here's a quick summary of environmental line items based on the House Republican proposal-
Overall - $5.1 million more than Senate Republicans
$1.1 million more than Governor
Conservation Districts - $300,000 more than Senate Republicans
$400,000 more than Governor
Nutrient Management Fund - $300,000 less than Senate Republicans
$200,000 less than Governor
Nutrient Management Admin.- $97,000 more than either
Overall - $6.3 million more than Senate Republicans
$8.8 million less than Governor
General Govt. - $100,000 more than Senate Republicans
$1.6 million less than Governor
State Parks - $3.6 million more than Senate Republicans
$4.2 million less than Governor
State Forests - $2.8 million more than Senate Republicans
$3.8 million less than Governor
Overall - $10.3 million more than Senate Republicans
$30 million less than Governor
General Govt. $600,000 less than Senate Republicans
Same as Governor
Environmental Program Mgmt.- $2.9 million more than Senate Republicans
$1.2 million less than Governor
Environmental Protection Ops - $4.6 million more than Senate Republicans
$6.4 million less than Governor
Chesapeake Bay Pollution Abate - $200,000 less than Senate Republicans
$200,000 less than Governor
Sewage Faciilties Planning - $1.6 million more than Senate Republicans
$50,000 less than Governor
Sewage Facilities Enforce- $4.3 million more than Senate Republicans
$500,000 less than Governor
Stormwater Management- $1.2 million more than Senate Republicans
Same as Governor
Consumer Energy Program- $15 million less than Senate Republicans
$15 million less than Governor
Conservation Districts- $100,000 more than Senate Republicans
$100,000 more than Governor
Underground Storage Tank Fund Repayment- All Three Zero Out
-- State System of Higher Education
PA Center for Environmental Education - Same as Senate Republicans
$18,000 more than Governor
Cuts, Cuts And More Environmental Cuts
In May Senate Republicans followed Gov. Rendell's lead by making significant, additional cuts to environmental funding, doubling the already deep $77 million cut the Governor proposed in the 2009-10 state budget, by adding another $77.4 million in cuts.
The additional $77.4 million in cuts made by Senate Republicans were to the departments of Agriculture ($8.9 million), Conservation and Natural Resources ($19.1 million) and Environmental Protection ($49.4 million) and mostly to line items related to funding for personnel costs.
In February Gov. Rendell proposed cuts of $77 million-- $13.9 million at the Department of Agriculture, $6.9 million in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $18.2 million at the Department of Environmental Protection and $22 million reduction in funding available for recycling. (Pa Environment Digest 2/9/09)
Funding for conservation districts under both proposals would be the same, but cut by 25 percent or $1 million. (Pa Environment Digest 2/16/09)
$10 million in funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program was preserved in Gov. Rendell proposal, but is uncertain in the Senate Republican budget. Senate Republicans said they would suspend $250 million in tax credit programs, but did not specify which ones. There are $324 million in tax credit programs included in the state budget, including $75 million to support movie and television production in the state.
The proposed cuts of $154 million do not include the transfer of $174 million from the DCNR Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the General Fund to help plug the deficit hole in the 2008-09 budget. These funds are proceeds from last year's leasing of state forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling
A third round of environmental budget cuts in June by Gov. Rendell resulted in an additional $12.5 million in cuts to environmental programs in the departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Conservation and Natural Resources and Insurance and the State System of Higher Education. (PA Environment Digest 6/29/09)
A fourth round of environmental budget cuts was agreed to by Gov. Rendell and Senate and House Leadership this week totaling about $3 million. A list of all the cuts is available online.
The environmental program cuts include--
Transfer to Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Fund - $493,000 (zeroed out)
General Government - $62,000
-- DEP - $2.4 million total
Environmental Program Management - $260,000
Environmental Protection Operations - $487,000
Flood Control Projects - $500,000
Stormwater Management - $800,000
Sewage Facilities Planning Grants - $100,000
Sewage Facilities Enforcement Grants - $100,000
Sea Grant Program - $189,000
Funding cuts for 2009-10 so far have totaled more than $343 million for environmental programs.
As noted, another $1.7 billion needs to be cut from the Senate Republican budget to achieve the goal of a no increases in any state broad-based tax like the Personal Income Tax. The will result in a fifth round of cuts to envirnomental programs.
Environmental, sportsmen and local government groups have supported adoption of a severance tax on natural gas production to help fund environmental program, but there was no mention if this proposal will play a role in helping to fund the state budget or environmental programs. (PA Environment Digest 6/29/09)
NewsClips: House Republicans Push Plan To End Budget Stalemate
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