State lawmakers are taking issue with budget maneuvers that dip into special funds originally meant for a prescribed set of purposes and programs.
The focus is the governor's proposal to siphon money from a special fund earmarked to support the horse racing industry. Dipping into special funds to balance the state's main budget sheet is nothing new. But Democratic state Senator John Yudichak of Carbon County says there's a better way to raid money that would otherwise support horsemen.
"Isn't it time that we look at trying to focus those funds, not shifting them into the General Fund, but driving them out to property tax relief for homeowners across Pennsylvania?" asked Ydichak.
The Horse Race Development Fund catches the revenue from a tax on slots. Part of the money goes toward the horse racing industry, but some of it goes toward property tax relief.
Governor Tom Corbett wants to take some $70 million from the fund to pay for agriculture-related programs. The state's budget secretary is defending the proposal. He said the special funds were created to catch certain tax revenues and earmark them for certain purposes.
"What we're suggesting with the budget this year is to direct those special funds back into the General Fund to support General Fund activities, and we're proposing those as permanent redirections," said Charles Zogby.
One proposed transfer would shrink a grant program used for public parks, forests, and land conservation.