State Budget Process Begins
Gov. Tom Wolf presented his 2018-19 General Fund budget proposal today. The election year spending plan avoids broad-based tax increases while boosting spending by about $1 billion, or 3 percent, to $33 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The proposed budget maintains current funding levels for the State Food Purchase Program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).
However, even with these current levels of funding, hunger still impacts far too many residents, meaning millions of working families, children and seniors don’t have access to healthy, nutritious meals. These Pennsylvanians are making impossible trade-offs between paying for food and other necessities like rent, transportation, health care and utilities.
That’s why Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and its allies are stepping up the fight against hunger to push for $21 million for SFPP and $3 million for PASS.
SFPP remains one of the commonwealth’s most important tools in the fight against hunger and a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania, enabling the state to provide essential resources to all 67 counties for the purchase of foods and nutritional supplements, food provider transportation and infrastructure, and access to federal food commodities.
Since 1983, SFPP has been a foundation for Pennsylvania’s food banks and food pantries in building the public-private effort to meet a basic need of our most vulnerable citizens. But funding hasn’t kept pace with need. In 2006-07, the state allotted $18.75 million for SFPP. But now, more than a full decade later, funding for SFPP is even lower, at $18.188 million, even as needs have risen.
PASS provides access to healthy and nutritious surplus food produced by Pennsylvania farmers to Pennsylvania families in need. Since 2015, 6 million pounds of fresh Pennsylvania produced food has been distributed to thousands of low-income households in all 67 counties.
PASS funding covers the costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting surplus products including fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy in order to donate those items to the charitable food system. The current $1 million appropriation only covers a portion of the nutritious bounty that could be brought into the charitable food system through PASS to help nourish the 1.67 million Pennsylvanians who struggle to put food on the table.
The governor’s proposal is just the first step in what could be an interesting budget process, as this year marks a gubernatorial election year, with half of the state Senate seats and all House seats on the ballot.
Several Republicans are running against the incumbent governor, who is seeking re-election to a second term. Among his many challengers are senators and representatives who play a role in budget and policy-making.
The House and Senate will now recess for a month-long series of budget hearings before returning to vote in mid-March. Look for updates along the way and remember:
To step up the fight against hunger, Pennsylvania should appropriate $21 million for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and $3 million for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).