HARRISBURG – The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Martin (R-13), continued public hearings on the proposed 2023-24 state budget Tuesday with the Pennsylvania Treasury and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will nearly wipe out the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Treasurer Stacy Garrity testified that, with the national economy possibly facing recession, Pennsylvania has a choice: spend modestly now, or face a possible fiscal cliff as federal funds dry up and the Rainy Day Fund is depleted. She noted that Pennsylvania’s credit rating could be improved by reducing the structural budget deficit and boosting the Rainy Day Fund.
The committee also discussed the performance of the PA 529 college savings program and PA ABLE savings program for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. Getting more unclaimed property into the hands of citizens and protecting state investments were also topics covered.
- Treasurer Garrity urged lawmakers to take a cautious approach to the budget and make greater investments in Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund.
- Pennsylvania’s credit rating is strong, but still shows room for improvement. Addressing the state’s structural imbalance and unfunded pension liabilities would be helpful in making Pennsylvania a leader among states in terms of credit ratings and reducing debt costs.
- The new transparency portal implemented by Treasury has helped add a new layer of accountability in how state tax dollars are managed and allocated.
- Treasury has returned 337 military decorations and medals to veterans and their families as part of the Department’s efforts to return unclaimed property. The Department also recently won a U.S. Supreme Court case to help return an additional $19 million in unclaimed property to Pennsylvanians.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
DCNR is requesting a bigger budget while failing to take advantage of current revenue opportunities. Several committee members joined Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chair Gene Yaw (R-23) in noting that by refusing to allow non-surface disturbance leases for natural gas, DCNR is passing up revenue that could fund recreational programs and services across the state.
Secretary Cindy Dunn was also questioned about DCNR policies inhibiting efforts to connect more Pennsylvanians to broadband. Also discussed were invasive species management, the department’s readiness to implement carbon sequestration technology, the success of a program of ATV trails on state lands and other topics.
- Pennsylvania has opportunities to leverage the land and assets it owns without disturbing the local environment. DCNR’s current approach was likened to sitting on a winning lottery ticket and not cashing it.
- Existing DCNR policies may be hindering the state’s efforts to connect more Pennsylvanians to broadband.
- DCNR has more than 100 job openings currently, but is requesting 21 new positions above this complement.
- The Department is expecting a difficult year in terms of invasive species management. This includes threats associated with tick-borne illness.
- DCNR’s Outdoor Corps continues to offer critical job training and educational opportunities for young people.
You can find the hearings schedule, livestreams, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.
CONTACT: Jason Thompson