Gov. Wolf Unveils 2020-2021 Budget Proposal
Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a $36.1 billion state spending plan that will rely on continued economic growth – proposing no increases in sales or personal income tax rates while boosting support for public school and college students, vulnerable Pennsylvanians and low-income workers.
The budget plan, which raises spending by about 4 percent, would provide an additional investment of $1 million in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) and level fund the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).
The spending plan also would put into effect a priority for the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition, of which LAMPa is a member, by listing the line items for PASS and SFPP separately. For years, funding for PASS was simply included within the SFPP line item. Both are administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
“Hunger remains an epidemic, affecting every community and the people we know: children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities; low-wage and part-time workers who can’t find steady employment; veterans; people who are homeless or in transitional housing; and people struggling with addiction,” said Sheila Christopher, executive director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania (HFPA), one the state’s largest nonprofit food providers.
“We welcome the increase in PASS funding, which helps both farmers and our hungry neighbors,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. “We acknowledge the commitment to investing in Pennsylvania’s citizens through education, care for our vulnerable neighbors and increases in the minimum wage. However, we also recognize that even with some proposed increases, in many areas – especially education – the gap between communities who have plenty and those who are struggling is wide. Far too many are being left behind in this economy.”
In his Jan. 5 budget address, Gov. Wolf urged the General Assembly to tackle student debt, gun violence and toxic schools. “Those are areas in which we should be able to find common ground,” DePasquale said. “Those issues affect the well-being of our neighbors,” she said, noting that LAMPa is supporting red flag legislation to prevent gun violence because Lutherans from all parts of the state and both sides of the aisle have experienced the effects of gun violence on friends, loved ones and their communities.
Ending hunger and its root causes remains at the core of LAMPa’s work, and our anti-hunger advocates find intersectionality at many points in the budget — from education to environmental stewardship.
Since 1983, SFPP has been the foundation for Pennsylvania’s food banks and congregational and community food pantries in the public-private effort to meet the most basic needs of hungry families. SFPP helps organizations purchase foods and nutritional supplements, finance food provider transportation and infrastructure, and gain access to federal food commodities.
In 2006-07, the state allotted $18.75 million for SFPP. More than a decade later, SFPP funding has DECREASED to $18.188, even as everything from the cost of food to transportation fuel has increased. To simply keep up with inflation, which has increased 27.4 percent since 2006, SFPP should total $24 million. The proposed 2020-21 General Fund keeps funding at $18.188 million.
“We know from the stories of our congregations and their hunger ministries that the need is still growing in our communities, despite what numbers may appear to be on Wall Street,” DePasquale said.
Through PASS, the Department of Agriculture provides funding to cover the costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting surplus products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, meat, and grains in order to donate those items to the charitable food system. Current funding has allowed healthy and nutritious surplus food to be brought into the charitable food system to nourish 1.6 million Pennsylvanians who struggle to put food on the table.
The governor’s budget would boost PASS by an additional $1 million, bringing the total to $2.5 million in the 2020-21 spending plan. The administration previewed the increase during a Jan. 22 event in Philadelphia to announce several new initiatives geared toward protecting Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations.
The Wolf administration, Christopher said, “has been steadfast in its consistent support of anti-hunger efforts” — through the combined efforts of state agency partners in the Governor’s Food Security Partnership, and through implementation of “A Blueprint for a Hunger-free PA,”
Yet, even with these advances, hunger still affects far too many residents. More than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, or 12.5 percent of the state’s population, qualify as food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Nearly 3 million residents turned to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families last year.
“As Lutherans who are committed to a just world where all are fed, we must continue to care for and accompany those who are suffering,” DePasquale said, “and that means lifting the stories we know to be true to move our lawmakers to care for our neighbors and our common home.”
Read news coverage about Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.
Read the Budget in Brief.
Watch the governor’s budget address.