The Senate will carefully study the $36.1 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 unveiled by Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday (February 4) before a joint session of the General Assembly, according to Senator Elder Vogel (R-47).
“Obviously, it’s more of the same old, same old,” said Senator Vogel. “We hear that he doesn’t want to raise taxes, yet there is over $1 billion in new spending in the budget and that money has to come from somewhere. We don’t know where that is coming from yet. He is taking a lot of money out of other programs. Taking $204 million out of the Horse Racing Development Fund to fund tuitions is a reputable idea, but it is something that is going to cause a lot of consternation among a lot of people in the state.”
The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $1.5 billion (4.2 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year. The Governor is not requesting a broad-based tax increase this year, but is continuing to push for a Marcellus Shale extraction tax, a $1 per-ton increase in the tipping fee charged to trash companies, and a fee for all municipalities for State Police services.
“While we are supportive of the Governor’s call for no broad-based tax increases, a number of the proposed fee increases are concerning and will require better justification from the Administration,” said Senator Vogel.
As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, Senator Vogel said he was concerned about a number of funding cuts and transfers that could impact Pennsylvania’s farming industry,
Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget would decrease by $4.3 million (2.5 percent), from $171.3 million in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget to $166.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020-21.
“I am pleased to see that many of the farm bill initiatives that we supported last year are proposed to receive another year of funding, namely the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit at $5 million,” said Senator Vogel. “However, there are a number of critical programs (Ag Research, Hardwoods Research, Livestock shows, etc.) that were eliminated by the Governor and will need to be reinserted back into the final budget.”
Likewise, we will need to learn more about the massive fund transfers from the Race Horse Development Fund as we work our way through the budgetary process this year. These transfers as proposed by the Governor could threaten the very existence of this industry in Pennsylvania.
In addition to the transfer of funding for tuition assistance, the Governor proposes to take $19.7 million from the Race Horse Development Trust Fund to support other line items in the Department of Agriculture budget. In addition, he proposes to eliminate the transfer of $32.5 million from the fund to support Restricted Racing Programs (the Sire Stakes Fund, the Breeders’ Fund and the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Fund). Under that plan, those programs would be eliminated as the balance of restricted revenue in the Racing Fund is drawn down.
The Governor is requesting a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding to $6.4 billion, a $30 million increase for early childhood education (Pre-K Counts to $242.3 million and Head Start to $69.2 million), and a $25 million increase in special education funding to $1.2 billion.
The State System of Higher Education would see a $13 million increase to $490 million, while state funding for community colleges and state-related universities is flat-funded in the Governor’s request.
Senator Vogel is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hold a three-week series of departmental budget hearings beginning on February 18. The hearings provide an opportunity for the Appropriations Committee to hear cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Contact: Matt Parido (717) 787-3076 firstname.lastname@example.org