Thursday, February 7, 2008

DEP takes hit in PA Governor's new budget

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell introduced a $28.3 billion state budget proposal Tuesday that proposes significant spending boosts for education and health care without the need for new taxes. He said his plan includes tax rebates to help poor residents and stimulate the economy.

Like last year, Rendell is calling for new state investments in alternative energy programs, facilities and equipment.

The Patriot-News reports that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' budget will stay roughly the same as last year--at $116 million, but the Department of Environmental Protection's $207 million budget will be $15.3 million (7 percent) lower than last year.

That can't be good news for DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty. If she's looking for areas to cut, and perhaps a sympathetic ear, she might put in a call to her counterpart in New Jersey. The Garden State's DEP Commissioner, Lisa Jackson, told the NJ Senate Environmental Committee last week that she has lost 200 employees due to budgetary restrictions since she took over the Department in 2006.

"I am increasingly managing the department with senior staff," Jackson said.

When asked about her priorities in 2008, Jackson said she had targeted seven areas but lacks the additional money and staff needed to do the work.

Her plight is not likely to improve. Gov. Jon Corzine has announced a broad-scale freeze on state spending, and his plan to get the state out of debt via steep toll road hikes is running into stiff public and political opposition.

SIDEBAR: Tougher economic times are affecting more than just the budget of environmental regulators. See today's New York Times piece: In Many Communities, It’s Not Easy Going Green Looking to Washington for relief? Fuggetaboutit: Also in today's NY Times:
Next year's war cost estimated at $170 billion

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