After 101 days, Pennsylvania has most of the major components of the budget done. The remaining items are the non-preferred appropriations for many of the state-related universities and the legalization of table games in the casinos. The tax rate for table games and the license fees remain a sticking point between the House and Senate. The Senate is urging the House to return next week and finish the work but the House is not scheduled to return at this point until November 9th. See news stories below for details.
One of the last pieces of the budget was the proposal to lease additional state lands for drilling. The authority to lease the lands remains with DCNR Secretary John Quigley. DCNR will use seismic testing and auctions to lease the land. The bill requires leasing to provide at least $60 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the General Fund for 09-10. It also transfers $143 million from existing money in the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the General Fund. It authorizes DCNR to use up to $50 million from royalty income for conservation purposes. DCNR shall give preference to the operation and maintenance of state parks and forests from this money. No additional money may be spent until appropriated by the General Assembly. It should also be noted that the budget balance sheets anticipate $180 million in additional new leasing for the General Fund for FY 10-11.