Pennsylvania Supports STEM Investments, Expands Keystone Opportunity Zones

July 16, 2008

Several bills from the 2008 legislative session were signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell during the past two weeks, including the fiscal year 2008-09 budget, providing enhancements to K-12 programs encouraging science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and a measure to significantly expand the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) tax incentive program.
 
Last week, Gov. Rendell signed SB 1412 into law enabling the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to designate up to 15 new zones, allow for expansion of existing zones, and extend the expiration dates of existing unoccupied parcels. The KOZ program was created in 1999 and provides state and local tax incentives to businesses that develop old industrial sites and underused areas. DCED also will receive $50.7 million in general funds from the FY 2008-09 budget for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority Fund -- $1 million less than last fiscal year and $15.1 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships Industrial Resource Centers, down from $15.2 million in FY08.
 
Lawmakers supported several of Gov. Rendell’s STEM proposal’s aimed at building a highly-qualified workforce. The following K-12 initiatives are slated to receive funding in the upcoming fiscal year:

  • $45 million for the Classrooms for the Future Program (half of the governor’s recommendation) to help prepare students for high-tech careers through enhanced technology, laptop computers and extensive technology training for teachers;
  • $14.5 million ($500,000 less than the governor’s recommendation, but $1 million above the FY 2007-08 appropriation) for Science: It’s Elementary, a K-6 initiative that provides hands-on learning and preparation for higher-level science classes in middle and high school;
  • $10.9 million – a slight decrease from last year for Project 720, a program that increases college and career ready curriculum for high school students;
  • $10 million – the same amount as last year for dual enrollment for high school students; and,
  • $2.7 million – a slight increase over last year for math and science education programs in K-12.

The State System of Higher Education and community colleges will both receive a 3 percent boost for operating expenses in the coming fiscal year.
 
Despite appeals to legislators over the past months to seed the Jonas Salk Legacy Fund, no funding was included in the approved budget for the initiative. First proposed in 2006, the Jonas Salk Legacy Fund would have used $500 million from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund to provide dollar-for-dollar matching grants to the state’s leading biosciences research in academia and industry (see the Feb. 6, 2006 issue of the Digest).
 
The enacted budget is $545 million less than the spending plan unveiled by the governor in February and 3.8 percent more than the FY 2007-08 budget. As of June 30, the state’s projected surplus has dropped to $159 million from the $427 million projected in February, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
 
The FY 2008-09 enacted budget is Act No. 38A and is available at: http://www.legis.state.pa.us

Pennsylvaniastate budget