State funding for several key agricultural programs as well as local fairs and the Pennsylvania Farm Show were restored or increased in the FY 2013-14 General Fund budget approved by the Senate on Sunday, according to Senator Elder Vogel, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
“This budget recognizes the importance of agriculture as Pennsylvania’s number one industry by providing money for a number of key programs and services that were defunded in the Governor’s budget request in February,” said Senator Vogel, who also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I am pleased that House Bill 1437 allocates $3 million for fairs and $4 million for the Pennsylvania Farm Show and that funding is restored for several other programs that benefit Pennsylvania’s farming families.”
Among the agricultural line items restored or increased in the budget were: Agricultural Excellence, $600,000; Agricultural Research, $787,000; Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports, $196,000; hardwoods Research and Promotion, $350,000; and, Food Marketing and Research, $494,000.
In addition, $300,000 was appropriated to create Agricultural Resource Centers which will be a joint venture between the Department of Agriculture and Penn State University to focus research and programs in three core areas: animal welfare, food safety and plant industry.
Overall General Fund spending as proposed in House Bill 1437 is $28.375 billion, a modest $645 million (2.3 percent) increase over current year spending and $64 million less than the Governor’s budget request in February.
House Bill 1437 reaffirms Senate Republicans’ commitment to providing Pennsylvania’s young people with a quality education from the youngest ages through their college years. Basic Education Funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools will see a 2.4 percent increase ($129.9 million) to $5.52 billion in FY 2013-14. That total is $40.4 million above the Governor’s request.
The budget substantially increases state support for early childhood education programs as funding for the Pre-K Counts program will go up by $5 million ($87.2 million) and Head Start Assistance will receive an additional $2 million ($39.17 million). House Bill 1437 maintains state support for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities and State System of Higher Education schools at current levels.
Overall funding for the Attorney General’s Office will increase by more than $9 million, with a $3 million increase for the Child Predator Interceptor Unit ($4.35 million) and $2.5 million for a new Mobile Street Crimes Unit. The budget increases funding for the State Police by nearly $15 million and funds three new State Police training classes, which will enroll 290 new cadets. Advancing efforts to ensure Pennsylvania’s young people can learn in a safe environment, the budget provides an additional $6.5 million for Safe School Initiatives, bringing that total to $8.5 million.