Fiscal Code for Agriculture Heads to Governor

Authored by: Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade, Special Sections Edition, Lancaster Farming

Another hurdle in the 2015-16 Pennsylvania state budget was cleared on Wednesday when the Legislature passed an amended version of House Bill 1589 to amend the state’s fiscal code.

For agriculture, the bill transfers about $25 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to support the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, agricultural fairs, Pennsylvania Farm Show and State Racing Fund.

The fiscal code specifies how budgeted funds are dispersed.

The House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s revisions on Wednesday. The next step is Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature. The governor let the 2015-16 budget bill go into effect March 28, but vetoed the accompanying fiscal code.

“I don’t anticipate any problems,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Fleetwood, minority chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

She said she is hopeful Wolf will sign the bill.

Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, majority chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, was the primary sponsor of the bill.

One budget might be done, but the next budget is due by July 1.

“I hope all parties are humbled somewhat over this. Our constituents are not going to stand for this. They don’t see compromise as a bad word,” Schwank said.

Improved communications can go a long way toward sorting out the decisions to solve the state’s budget shortfalls, Schwank said, and she would like to see work “begin sooner instead of later” on the 2016-17 budget.

The debate over taxes is not going to go away with the next budget. It will not be an easy discussion, Schwank said, as many in her district do not want to see tax increases. That includes many farmers, who have seen their incomes drop with declining market prices.

“In the agriculture community, it’s just not going to be palatable,” she said. Still, the state has to begin to clean up its budgetary problems, “although, cleanup might be painful.”