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Politics & Government

Agency Heads Voice Concern Over GOP Budget Proposal

Matt Rourke

Agencies are raising alarms over a GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars to fill gaps in the state’s badly unbalanced budget.

The proposal comes from a conservative faction of the House.

Supporters say it wouldn’t impact state departments, because the money to be transferred is all surplus that has increased over the last few years without being spent.

But a number of agencies say they’d be profoundly affected.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the funds identified as “surplus” are virtually all committed for future projects.

“These are not sitting there and available for moving in this way—and in fact many of them cannot be moved in this way,” she said. “So we would have to take this from operating funding, which is vital to transit agencies across the state.”

In a letter, Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards said the cuts would amount to a 35 percent reduction in PennDOT’s operating subsidies this year, which could mean a 30 percent reduction in operations and fare hikes.

The secretary of Agriculture and the state fire commissioner also sent letters with essentially the same message—there’s a reason the money is there.

Executive Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Smith said all told, the plan would take over $50 million from agriculture funds.  

“Every dollar that’s in those funds today are fully committed,” he said. “If we don’t have those resources, very likely, the states or counties would have to renege on the commitments we’ve made to farmers.”

Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay said money has been transferred out of his office before—and doing so hobbles the office’s ability to provide low-interest loans to volunteer fire companies and other emergency workers.

The House returns to session Monday. It’s still unclear whether the proposal has enough votes to make it through the chamber.

What's at stake and candidate profiles for statewide races and competitive primaries in Allegheny County.