The House of Representatives set the state general fund contribution to running the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at $136 million or more than $2 million less than the $138.2 million budget proposed by Governor Corbett.
Governor Corbett's state funding budget for DEP in turn was more than $7.2 million less than the DEP budget of $145.2 million for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.
To make matters even worse, vital fee packages that would pay for air permitting and inspections, mining program operations, regulation of water systems have stopped dead in the water. The fee packages that would charge those using services for a portion of the cost of providing the service (not the entire cost) would generate between $20 million to $25 million.
DEP cannot do its mission reasonably, let alone address the growing challenges it faces, with a budget effectively below $170 million.
There are two ways to get to $170 million for the coming year.
Method one: set the state general fund contribution at $170 million.
Method two: set the state general fund contribution at $145 million and enact immediately the fee packages that should have been finished by now to bring in another $25 million.
The state will finish on June 30th the fiscal year with approximately a $600 million surplus. Using a tiny portion of that surplus and moving forward the stalled fee packages to give DEP a barebones budget to protect our health, environment and safety should be a no-brainer.