Feb. 16, 2022

HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee held its second day of budget hearings. The committee heard from the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Department of General Services (DGS) and the Office of Administration (OA):

Review of the governor’s projections for future year corrections expenditures highlights the arbitrary expenditure projections throughout the governor’s proposed budget to paper over the looming deficit his spending plan leaves for the next governor:

The State Correctional Institution appropriation is funded at $2.166 billion in the governor’s budget, an increase of 4% for 2022-23.  However, the governor then projects decreases in the next two years.  This is in conflict with the proposal that DOC submitted to the budget office in October, which projected 3% growth in each of the four fiscal years beyond 2023-24.
Likewise the Medical Care appropriation increases by $2.65 million in the governor’s budget, but then is projected to remain flat in the next four years.  This again is in conflict with the proposal that DOC submitted to the budget office in October, which projected 3% growth in each of the four fiscal years beyond 2023-24.
Upon questioning, Acting Secretary George Little admitted that collective bargaining agreements, the system’s aging population, and medical inflation cause upward pressure on their budget; however, he said it’s possible the governor’s proposal is offsetting these increases with reduced population projections.  It’s unclear where these projections changed or came from, but it was clear they were not DOC’s projections.
The governor’s budget also proposes a $9 million increase, or 6%, for State Field Supervision under the Board of Parole followed by level funding in the out years.
Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga) summarized the frustration by committee members when he said, “we all see what’s happened here.  The numbers were given to the governor’s office, he’s leaving, [and] they’re going to flat line the numbers.”  See the exchange here.

The governor’s vaccine cash giveaway for state employees cost the Department of Corrections $8 million and only increased its vaccination rate by 3-4%.
Under questioning by Rep. David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Acting Secretary Little said that prior to the governor’s initiative to give five additional vacation days for getting vaccinated, they had a vaccination rate around 46% to 47%.  Now it is a little over 50%.  See the exchange here.

Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome was unaware that the governor is proposing to increase the OA line item by over $1 million, a 10% increase.
When asked to explain what the increase was for, Newsome responded that he was unfamiliar with the line item that funds his agency. (Really!)

DGS Secretary Curtis Topper was unaware of a $2.9 million initiative within his General Government Operations (GGO) line item to “provide resources to support efficient and effective service delivery.”

The OA estimates the cost of the governor’s vaccine cash giveaway will be at least $45 million.  
Treasurer Stacy Garrity has estimated that the benefit will cost $100 million.
Gov. Wolf said it would only cost $24.5 million in November.
OA could not provide a good estimate of the impact of this initiative on increasing vaccination rates as data on state worker vaccination status is voluntary.

Rep. Stan Saylor, Majority Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
Pennsylvania House of Representatives