Once again, Governor Wolf's annual budget address was highlighted by three themes: "Schools that Teach," "Jobs that Pay" and "Government that Works."
Repairing and improving Pennsylvania's infrastructure is something the Governor has tried to address since last year's speech. Again, Wolf is promoting his Restore Pennsylvania plan, which would enact a severance tax on natural gas drilling. Funds would help increase high-speed internet access, combat blight, assist communities with storm preparedness and disaster recovery, eliminate contaminants, clean up brownfields, build green infrastructure, repair rural roadways and develop new business sites. Furthermore, Wolf is looking to expand the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) to allow for $1 billion in lead and asbestos remediation projects in schools.
In order to keep Pennsylvania's safe, the Governor's proposal includes a statewide fee, regardless of the level of municipal police coverage, for State Police coverage in municipalities without their own police force. In previous budget addresses, Wolf proposed a similar fee just for individuals in municipalities with State Police coverage. In addition, there is a $6 million increase for comprehensive gun violence prevention and reduction grants, and a $4 million increase in funding would go to the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force.
To protect the most vulnerable individuals in the Commonwealth, the Governor is proposing:
- $15 million for community services to people with unanticipated emergencies, people transferring from private intermediate care facilities or state hospitals;
- $8.1 million to provide services to 1,700 people on the OPTIONS in-home services waiting list;
- $5.1 million increase to programs within the Department of Human Services to support increased workloads and complete timely inspections of facilities;
- $4 million increase for counties to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism living in the community;
- $1.4 million increase in state funding to expand a newly established home visiting initiative through the Medicaid managed care organizations that will provide in-home visits for new parents;
- $1.4 million for the Ventilator Dependent Resident Grant Program;
- $1.3 million for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program;
- $1.25 million for 20 Community Hospital Integration Projects Program (CHIPP);
- $1.2 million to establish a direct care worker training to support workers and those receiving long-term services and supports;
- $1 million increase in state funding to fill decreased federal dollars to maintain the existing evidence-based home visiting programs;
- $1 million increase to expand the legal services program for low-income individuals; and
- $1 million increase for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).
As in other years, Governor Wolf is investing heavily in environmental protection and restoration efforts. This includes a $1 per ton increase for the tipping fee on municipal waste landfill deposits, which would generate an additional $22.6 million for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund. There are two areas where funds would go towards increasing staffing levels within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): $1.5 million to hire additional safe for DEP's Bureau of Air Quality; and $1 million for staff and related support to implement Pennsylvania's Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (Phase 3 WIP).
Pipeline safety was a major part of the 2020-21 proposed budget, as the Governor is calling on the legislature to enact legislation that would do the following:
- Provide the Public Utility Commission (PUC) with authority to regulate siting and routing of intrastate pipelines;
- Require information be given to schools and child care centers within 1,000 feet of a pipeline;
- Require pipeline companies to provide notification to residents, municipalities and other applicable parties affected by drilling at least five days in advance of the initiation of any project;
- Require public utility facilities transporting natural gas or natural gas liquids to meet t with the county emergency coordinator entrusted to respond in the event of natural gas release and provide vital emergency response and evacuation information;
- Mandate pipeline operators to provide current Emergency Response Plans to the PUC;
- Require the installation of automatic or remote shutoff valves in high consequence areas in compliance with federal requirements for transmission line values;
- Establish pipeline infrastructure setback requirements and authority to consider these setbacks from regulated environmental features, like wetlands and surface waters, which may also include affirmative preference for co-location of infrastructure in existing or single rights of way; and
- Legislation to provide enhanced PUC authority should include the ability to establishing pipeline infrastructure setback requirements for public safety purposes, from such features as primary residential buildings, primary education buildings, and hospitals pipeline infrastructure.
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