State Budget Plans Progress
Pennsylvania’s budget process is moving along. On Tuesday, April 4, the House of Representatives passed its version of the 2017-18 General Fund budget. Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his proposed spending plan on Feb. 7. Both the governor’s proposal and the House version keep funding flat for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).
The two budgets differ in many respects. At $31.52 billion, the House measure (H.B. 218) spends less than the governor’s proposal of $32.34 billion, and the two rely on different cuts and revenue generators to balance the ledger. The House version was directed by majority Republican leaders who control that chamber, and they passed the plan largely along party lines, 114-84, with every Democrat and two Republicans voting in opposition. The measure now goes to the Senate for review.
This back and forth is typical for the early budget season, as the administration and lawmakers showcase their priorities before heading into the next few months of serious negotiations. A final spending plan must be adopted before the fiscal year ends June 30. It remains vital that as this process moves along, advocates like you need to continue to make the case for increased funding for SFPP and PASS.
Yes, we can take it as a small victory that even though many line items were cut in the House version of the budget, SFPP and PASS remained at levels as proposed originally by the governor. Our elected leaders are beginning to recognize more and more that residents are turning to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. More must be done if we truly want a “hunger-free Pennsylvania.”
The SFPP line item totals $19.188 million, with $1 million of that amount dedicated for PASS. Funding for PASS is incorporated into the SFPP line item and does not have a line item of its own, something we continue to push for, since each program is unique.
SFPP remains one of the state’s most important tools in the fight against hunger. For years, the program has suffered from stagnant funding even as need rose. In 2006-07, the state allotted $18.75 million for SFPP. But now, a full decade later, funding for SFPP is even lower, at $18.188 million. All of this puts enormous pressure on food assistance providers, which is why Hunger-Free Pennsylvania is pushing for $21 million in the current budget.
Likewise, additional investments in PASS make sense. With PASS, the state’s charitable food organizations work with Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector and farm communities to feed those in need. Hunger-Free Pennsylvania is pushing for a $5 million investment that would yield between 50 million and 150 million pounds of fresh produce and generate huge economic benefits for the state’s agricultural industry through increased commerce and a reduction of agricultural waste.
The next few months will be critical. Thank you, everyone, for your hard work and advocacy … and for all you do in your communities to help those in need. Just like your support makes all the difference to the families you serve, your continued advocacy can and will make all the difference in funding for SFPP and PASS.