Environmental advocates worry over creative math in Wolf’s budget

February 7, 2019 Pennsylvania Capital-Star
PEC in the News

Nonsense.

That’s how Gov. Tom Wolf, just two years ago, described a House Republican plan to to raid 47 budget accounts across Pennsylvania state government close a $1 billion hole in the state budget.

Now, as he rolls out the first budget proposal of his second term, Wolf has borrowed their accounting as he aims to funnel nearly $1 billion in new spending on public education, job-training, and pre-k programs while avoiding a tax hike.

A look at Wolf’s full $34.1 billion general fund budget proposal shows nearly $63 million in cuts to the two departments responsible for testing drinking water, preserving state parks and forests and regulating the state’s natural gas industry among other environmental tasks.

Last year, the state provided $129 million from the general fund to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, while it allocated $92 million this year. The Department of Environmental Protection, meanwhile, received $132 million after getting $157 million last year.

The administration wants to move money from three independent funds — the Recycling Fund, Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund, and the Environmental Stewardship Fund — to fill the gap…

 

…So overall, some wariness does exist that environmental programs could get the short end of the stick come budget crunch time, John Walliser, senior VP of legal and government affairs at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said.

Walliser’s group doesn’t support using the specialty funds to cover operational costs of state agencies, and saw it as taking from one program to support another.

If Restore PA turns out to be success, Walliser noted, the whole argument could be moot as environmental efforts would get an influx of cash. But until the votes are tallied, he’ll be watching.

“We’ll wait and see,” Walliser said. “We’re not sure how it’s all going to play out, but at this point in time we’re concerned.”


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