June 30, 2012

Special July 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Special July 2 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, today applauded the restoration of funding for two key programs in the 2012-13 state budget.
Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition, issued the following statement:
“The Coalition applauds the decision to restore funding for our parks, trails, open space, waterways and family farms and thanks our lawmakers for recognizing the importance of investing in recreation, conservation and preservation.
“Restoring funding for Keytone and farmland preservation programs will help support our local and regional economies and will protect the quality of life that makes Pennsylvania a great place to live, work and visit.
“Elimination of these programs would have threatened the very fabric of the Commonwealth and put a greater burden on our local communities.
“After working closely with members of leadership, the Coalition thanks the House, Senate and Corbett administration for making the right decision to fund Keystone and farmland preservation and looks forward to working together to identify long-term solutions to ensure these and other critical conservation programs are sustainable in the future.”
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth. More than 244 organizations, groups and businesses have signed the Coalition’s statement of support, and nearly 150 government entities, including 37 counties, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.

Saturday NewsClips

Senate Gives Budget OK With 36 Hours To Spare
Senate Approves $27.6 Billion Budget
Senate Gives Final Approval To Budget Bill
$27 Billion Budget Sent To Corbett
Corbett’s Budget Plan Gets Approval
Corbett Expected To Sign Budget Plan Today
What’s Left For Lawmakers To Approve?
Universities Say They’ll Limit Tuition Increases
Universities Thank Corbett, Legislators For Higher Ed Funding
State System, Penn State To Abide By Tuition Promise
CCAC Tuition Will Hold Steady For Coming Year
School District Takeover bill Awaits Corbett’s Signature
Most Of Corbett’s Education Package Still On Hold
PA To Wait 1 More Month Before Ending Cash Welfare Aid
Welfare Officials End A Program A Bit Too Early
20 Counties Could Receive Human Service Block Grants
Shell Tax Break Could Go Over $1.6 Billion
New Law Would Allow Experts To Testify On Sex Abuse
Candidate Drops Out Of Race For Pippy Senate Seat
Democratic Candidate Pulls Out Of Race For Pippy Senate Seat
Click Here for today's Environmental News

Senate, House Set To Take Final Legislative Actions Today

The Senate and House are expected to take final action on budget-related and other legislation today and then adjourn for the summer.  Here’s a quick summary of where the major budget bills stand--

General Fund Budget: Senate Bill 1466 (Corman-R-Centre) contains the FY 2012-13 General Fund budget.  The Senate and House Republicans (by and large) gave the bill final approval Friday-- a day early-- touting the spending plan as another no-tax, on-time budget.
House Democrats said the budget does not do enough to restore funding for education, address the state’s transportation infrastructure needs nor supports the Commonwealth’s neediest citizens, especially when the Independent Fiscal Office projects there will be an additional $400 million in state tax revenue for the coming year.

The overall spending of $27,656,381 is an increase of $470,728,000 over FY 2011-12 and over the $27.1 billion budget Gov. Corbett proposed in February.
Republicans generally highlighted these items from the budget--
-- The budget is below the FY 2008-09 spending level of $28.3 billion;
-- Higher Education funding restored to FY 2011-12 levels-- $246 million;
-- K-12 Education state funding is $100 million more than FY 11-12;
-- $84 million in county Human Services funding restored; and
-- Pays pension contributions in full.
Click Here for a House Republican summary of the budget.  Click Here for a House Democratic summary.  Click Here for a line by line budget spreadsheet.

Tax Code: House Bill 761 (Cutler-R-Lancaster) further exempting certain transfers from the realty transfer tax is waiting for a concurrence vote in the House.  A summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available.  This is the first Tax Code bill in five years and has 24 provisions.  Among the changes are--
-- Establishes a new Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit (Shell ethane plant) up to $66 million/year;
-- Increases Research and Development Tax Credit from $40 to $55 million;
-- Establishes a new $3 million Historic Preservation Incentive Tax Credit; and
-- Provides an additional exclusion from realty transfer tax for transfer of a family farm.

Fiscal Code: Senate Bill 1263 (Browne-R-Lehigh) amending the Fiscal Code to implement the budget agreement, including provisions which further provide for conventional oil and gas well blanket bonding requirements; Prohibiting DEP from issuing permits in the South Newark Basin until January 1, 2018 unless a study of the impact of drilling is done by DCNR; and directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, in consultation with PennVEST, is directed to conduct a study of how the state can meet nutrient reduction planning targets in any watershed implementation plan by December 30, 2012.  The bill is waiting for final action in the House and a concurrence vote in the Senate.

Welfare Code: House Bill 1261 (Quigley-R-Montgomery) further providing for eligibility for public assistance, providing for a county human services block grant pilot study, ends general public cash assistance, but not medical assistance.  A summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available.  The bill is waiting for a concurrence vote in the House.

Education Code: House Bill 1901 (Everett-R-Lycoming) amending the Education Code to implement the FY 2012-13 budget, provide for employee background checks and other changes.  A summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available.  The bill is waiting for a concurrence vote in the House.

June 28, 2012

House Passes General Fund Budget, Senate Action Expected

The House voted 120 to 81 tonight to approve Senate Bill 1466 (Corman-R-Centre), the FY 2012-13 General Fund budget which contains overall spending of $27,656,381, an increase of $470,728,000 over FY 2011-12.  The Senate is expected to concur in the budget bill Friday (updated).
Click Here for a House Republican summary of the budget.  Click Here for a House Democratic summary.  Click Here for a line by line budget spreadsheet.

Thursday NewsClips

Democrats Get 1st Look At PA Budget Plan
Crunch Time With PA Budget Deadline Near
Budget Proposal Set For Lawmakers’ Vote
House Recesses Without Starting Budget Debate
House To Begin Budget Debate
House Expected To Vote On Budget Proposal
Higher Ed Board Calls For Better Financial Scrutiny
Op-Ed: EITC Would Expand School Choice
Bill Sets Up PA Health Data Exchange
Voter ID Law Comments Dishonorable Practice
Editorial: Turzai’s Slip On Voter ID Unmasks GOP Agenda
Poll: Obama Has Slim Lead Over Romney In PA
Stetler Found Guilty Of All Counts
Former Rendell Aide Is Convicted
Stetler Conviction Shows Pattern Of Corruption In PA
Lawmaker Seeks Federal Review Of Sandusky Investigation
Tax Experts Question Credits For Shell Plant
State Pegs Cracker Jobs At 10K, Or Not
Lancaster Authority Only Bidder For Harrisburg Waste Plant
Lancaster Authority In Talks To Buy HBG Waste Plant
Harrisburg Council Still Fighting Recovery Plan
Court Hands HBG Authority Defeat In $19 Million Court Battle
Click Here for today's Environmental News

June 26, 2012

Senate Republicans Post FY 2012-13 General Fund Budget Spreadsheet

Senate Republicans this afternoon released an FY 2012-13 General Fund budget spreadsheet (updated) showing major funding line items and their funding levels.
Overall spending $27,656,381 an increase of $470,728,000 over FY 2011-12.
The plan looks more like the Senate-passed budget and less like the Governor’s request in the areas expected: higher education funding, basic education funding, etc.  Here are some highlights--
Department of Education
-- $212.1 million for Community Colleges, same as last year
-- $47.8 million for Community College Capital Fund, $1.5 million increase
-- $1.2 million for Regional Community Colleges Services, $500,000 increase
Department of Transportation
-- $5.7 million for Rail Freight Assistance, same as FY 2011-12
Department of Public Welfare
-- $274,000 less for Legal Services than FY 2011-12
-- $9.3 million increase overall, most for county courts
-- $285,000 cut for Supreme Court
General Assembly
-- $200,000 cut for Senate
-- $800,000 cut for House
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
-- $2.5 million less overall than FY 2011-12, most personnel line items, same as Governor’s request
Department of Environmental Protection
-- $11.8 million less overall than FY 2011-12, $6.6 million in personnel line items, more than Governor’s proposed cuts of $10.5 million
-- Sewage Facilities Planning and Enforcement Grants zeroed out
-- $29,000 less for County Conservation Districts
Department of Agriculture
-- $3.5 million less overall than FY 2011-12, restoration of funding cuts proposed by Governor
-- $245,000 cut to General Government Operations
-- $10,000 less transferred to County Conservation Districts than FY 2011-12
-- $27,000 less transferred to Nutrient Management Fund
-- No transfer from the Race Horse Development Fund
Commonwealth Financing Authority
-- $3.5 million more totalling $85.5 million

Click Here for a copy of the spreadsheet (updated).

Tuesday NewsClips

Corbett, Republican Leaders Meet On Budget Issues
A State Budget By Saturday?
Corbett Defends 10% Cut To Human Services
EITC Would Aid Failing Schools
Editorial: State College Loans Need Tighter Rules
Op-Ed: Keep Focus On Education Quality, Choice
As Jail Population Grows, PA Nears Reform
Senate Sends Governor Correction Reform Bill
Democrats Riled Up Over Turzai’s Voter Law Comment
Turzai’s Voter ID Remark Draws Criticism
Rendell Testifies For Former Rep. Stetler
Stetler Case Goes To Jury
Rep. Sturla’s Scary Hunger Games Fundraiser
Editorial: Campaign Finance Reports Shouldn’t Be On Paper
Corbett Offers Fresh Defense Of Length Of Sandusky Probe
In PA, Conflicting Opinions On Immigration Ruling
Delaware County Refinery Works Going Back To Work
Gasoline Prices Likely To Keep Falling
Western PA Jobless Rate Holds Steady
Erie Unemployment Rate Holds Steady
Editorial: Mayor Bloomberg’s Crazy Idea
Lawmakers Expected To Extend HBG Bankruptcy Moratorium
Click Here for today's Environmental News

June 22, 2012

June 25 PA Environment Digest Now Available

June 25 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

Republicans Agree On A General Fund Spend Number, Now The Hard Part

Senate and House Republicans and Gov. Corbett Wednesday announced an agreement on a General Fund spend number-- $27.656 billion, taking the first major step toward resolving their differences over largest portion of the state budget.
This spending cap is about $500 million more than the Governor’s request and almost identical to what Senate and House Republicans have been advocating.
In return, the Governor received a commitment from the Leaders to adopt the $1.65 billion tax credit initiative he proposed to attract the Shell ethane plant to Beaver County.
There is no word yet on whether the Keystone Fund will be restored to the Senate’s level of $19 million or the House proposal of full restoration of all $38 million.  There is also no word yet on whether other environmental funding will be restored.
In addition, there is also apparent agreement on at least some funding increases over the Governor’s budget request--
-- $245 million for higher education restorations;
-- $100 million for K-12 accountability block grant programs;
-- $82 million for county welfare programs, restoring half the funds that were removed; and
-- $25 million for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit.

Friday NewsClips

The House is in non-voting session today and Saturday, but not Sunday as originally scheduled.  The Senate and House will return to voting session on Monday, June 25.
State Budget Agreement Launches Other Negotiations

Any PA Budget Deal Remains Under Wraps
House Panel Votes To Restore Higher Ed Funding
Editorial: Community Colleges Need Mandate Relief
Corbett’s Tax Breaks For Shell Raises Questions About Jobs
Editorial: Corbett’s Shell Tax Break Good Deal For State
Education Tax Credit To Expand In New PA Budget
Budget Proposal Offers Boost For School Choice
Act 49 Distressed Municipalities Bill Wins Approval
Colleges Scramble To Make School IDs Voter IDs
Former Rep. Stetler Denies Widespread Campaign Work
PUC OKs Trainer Pipeline Transfer To Ease Sale To Delta
Click Here for today's Environmental News