Legislators touch on budget, other issues at Lancaster agriculture forum
State Sen. Mike Brubaker and state Reps. Dave Hickernell and Mindy Fee stressed the important role farming plays in Pennsylvania's economy at this morning's Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ag Issues Forum.
The discussion, however, addressed many issues beyond agriculture, particularly the state budget.
The budget submitted by Gov. Tom Corbett relies on revenue streams “from legislative action that has not been finalized,” Brubaker said.
It includes $1 billion from proposed liquor privatization that would go toward education. But if such initiatives aren’t passed, the money won’t come in, and the budget will have to be balanced by other means, Brubaker said.
“Thank goodness your state has to pass a budget that is fiscally balanced, unlike the federal government, which I think is sinful,” he said.
Brubaker said he supports privatization in principle, arguing that liquor sales and promotion are not core functions of state government.
He touched on his concerns about the state’s pension problems, saying the liability amounts to $60 billion.
Fee, a first-term representative, said things in Harrisburg “are moving in a really good direction,” citing House passage of liquor privatization as an example of progress on a contentious issue.
Hickernell cited controversy over Corbett’s proposal in his budget to fund certain ag programs with money from the Horse Racing Development Fund rather than through agricultural budget line items. Negotiators will hash out such issues during the budget process, he said.
He praised dairy farmer Luke Brubaker, owner of Brubaker Farms, for his role in the multiyear push to amend Pennsylvania’s vehicle code to better provide for the movement of large farm equipment on public roads. Last year, Corbett signed three bills easing the restrictions. Hickernell presented Brubaker a framed photo of the signing ceremony, containing a pen used to sign the legislation.
Here are staff reporter Tim Stuhldreher's tweets from the Lancaster chamber event: