HARRISBURG, Pa. — The effects of the economy can be observed in many places today — in the automotive industry, in tourism and hospitality services, and, if the proposed Senate budget passes, at Pennsylvania fairs and shows.
Senate Bill 850, recently passed by the Republican-dominated Senate, eliminates funding for the 116 county and community fairs in Pennsylvania and decreases funds for three state-sponsored shows at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center by nearly 20 percent, said Chris Ryder, Pa. Department of Agriculture press secretary.
“The Senate’s proposed budget definitely puts the All-American Dairy Show, the Keystone International Livestock Exposition and the Pennsylvania Farm Show in jeopardy,” he said.
Ryder said the decreased funding could create problems with staffing the shows and paying premiums to exhibitors.
One community fair that relies entirely on funding from the state is the Mount Nebo Grange Fair in Allegheny County.
Fair secretary Pat Rudy confirmed the fair had been canceled due to the proposed Senate’s budget cuts but declined further comment.
“The Mount Nebo Grange Fair did not want to get into a situation where they made commitments and then had to cancel due to lack of funding,” Ryder said. “More fairs will probably be in similar situations this year.”
Gov. Edward Rendell’s proposed budget, which the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will likely pass, includes $2 million for funding of the fairs.
“The Governor’s budget makes quite a few more investments than the Senate budget in the future of Pennsylvania agriculture,” Ryder said.
In addition to the lack of fair funding, the Senate budget has allotted zero dollars for programs such as agricultural research, the FFA and farmland preservation.
According to a statement on the Web site of 50th District Senator Bob Robbins, serving Crawford, Mercer and parts of Butler and Lawrence counties, these budget cuts were necessary.
“The harsh reality is Pennsylvania is facing a $3 billion revenue shortfall by the end of the current fiscal year,” he said.
“We either cut spending to reflect the current economic climate in Pennsylvania or we raise taxes, and I haven’t heard one compelling reason in favor of raising taxes.”
The bill sponsor and Appropriations Committee Chair, Sen. Jake Corman, agreed the cuts were necessary in a statement available on his Web site.
Corman pointed out that the “fiscally responsible” Senate budget would avoid draining the commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund and would continue supporting government programs such as education because of federal stimulus money.
“This budget represents a strong starting point for controlling spending and avoiding tax hikes,” he said.
The Senate passed this budget May 6. Once the House of Representatives passes its proposed budget, conference committees will begin to develop a final budget.
Although the fiscal year ends June 30, there is no constitutional requirement for the budget to be finalized for the new fiscal year.
This year’s budget process may, as in previous years, continue past the July 1 date.