Today in Harrisburg, Governor Corbett revealed his proposal for the 2012-2013 budget. We wanted to provide a quick summary and high-level observations to members of the economic development community. The bottom line is that there is little to be excited about if you work in the economic development or related communities in Pennsylvania.
First, this budget continues and in some cases adds to the cuts that have been faced by almost all of the Department of Community and Economic Development programs. The chart below illustrates the impact over the past 12 budget cycles on the economic development initiatives in the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth of PA Economic Development Funding
This year’s budget further reduces economic development spending by $3.6 million from 2012-2013 figures.
This is a total of $60.9 million from the end of the previous administration with several programs consolidated or eliminated in the past two years. The chart provided also breaks out Commonwealth Financing Debt service as this funding is going to pay off previous commitments rather than being available for new investments.
The larger cuts are in the areas of Pennsylvania First (decreased by $2.5 million) and the Marketing to Attract Tourists (decreased by $1 million).
Programs such as the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority which supports the Ben Franklin Technology Partners ($14.5 million), the Life Science Greenhouses ($3 million), and the newer Discovered and Developed in PA program ($9.9 million) are level funded in the Governor’s proposal. It remains to be seen if the Corbett administration will continue to support the Keystone Innovation Zone program. Previously those funds were provided as part of the BFTDA funding but in the past year the appropriation went to support the regional Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
One major blow to the state’s colleges and research universities that are performing health research is a redirection of all funding for the Health Research Priorities otherwise known as the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement program (CURE). Last year the CURE program supported $55.8 million in research funding and if the Governor’s proposal passes they will received no funding.
The budget negotiation process begins today and the Governor has made his recommendations. We will keep you posted about the conversations. If you have any questions or information to share please feel free to ask and comment.
Would you cut your personal budget today by $1,000 if you knew, as a result, you would lose $3,500 five years from now?
Pennsylvania and many other states are contemplating significant reductions in their funding of programs that support economic diversity. While I recognize that government has not done well to reign in spending, the rationale for reductions must be thought through much more than what is currently being proposed. I am increasingly fearful that the actions being taken, not just in Pennsylvania but also in many other capitols across the country, are going to have mid- to long-term ramifications for U.S. competitiveness and future economic recovery.
Pennsylvania’s Acting DCED Secretary recently summed my concerns up best:
“Just as a farmer doesn’t eat the seed corn during a drought, you don’t cut economic development programs during a recession,” Walker said. “This is actually when we need new tools in our arsenal to survive and grow.”
As many in the field of economic development have begun to focus on ‘economic gardening,’ providing assistance to local firms to support growth, his statements are right on the mark.
The issue before us is that the easy path to balanced budgets is to eliminate anything that is not understood. The example formula above is being played out in Pennsylvania as the state cuts millions from its budget. The ratio of $1 in state investment equaling $3.5 in tax returns is taken from the actual impact measures shown from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Over the past few years over $10 million in annual investment has been taken from this program. Two years of these reductions represents over $70 million in lost future tax revenue.
Pennsylvania’s state government has been a pioneer and decades-long leader in supporting technology-based economic development. In 1983, then Governor Thornburg responded to the serious economic threats caused by the demise of the steel industry employment base by calling for the creation of the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership. In similar fashion the Governor of Ohio announced the creation of the Edison Center Network. These two efforts have led the way and today are still being replicated in state’s that are seeking to diversify their economies and create an environment that supports high growth, high wage companies. The visionary leadership has benefited us well for almost three decades.
Today we all must make hard choices but I hope that we can start doing so with informed and deliberative decision-making rather than the sound bite-filled rhetoric that has guided the current proposed cuts. The science of program evaluation is often difficult to understand, but so is the reality that we have eaten our seed corn and have nothing left for the future.