DCNR resistance

JUNE 9, 2015 – Some resistance has developed to House Bill 343, revolving around complexities with the state budget. Representatives from the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources maintain the bill would cripple DCNR operations.

HB 343 calls for 20 percent of the revenue that derived from resource extraction (gas/oil leasing and timber harvesting) on state forest land to be shared with school districts, counties and municipalities where state land is located.

The Pa. State Land Tax Fairness argues that the acquisition of so much land by the Commonwealth was never designed to seize that property from the local tax base for the purpose of generating millions of dollars for the state’s general fund through the exploitation of its natural resources.

However, DCNR officials counter that the legislature and multiple governors have incrementally reduced the state’s general fund allotments to DCNR and forced the agency to depend on the revenue from gas/oil leasing and timber harvesting for its operating expenses. For fiscal 2013-14, for example, $174 million was transferred from resource extraction receipts to run DCNR. If HB 343 were to pass, the agency said, its budget would be slashed by about $29 million.

An obvious solution is for the legislature and governor to restore DNCR’s full funding from the state’s general fund. Rep. Greg Vitale (D-Delaware) has introduced HB 1500, clarifying language that prohibits the state from raiding the Oil and Gas Lease Fund for DCNR’s operating expenses.