DAN MARSCHKA | Staff Photographer photos Gov. Tom Wolf speaks to reporters after attending an event Thursday in Lancaster. Wolf says the budget deal “moves Pennsylvania forward” with higher sales tax but lower property taxes.

Pennsylvania ag programs will finally get long-overdue state funding thanks to a supplemental budget that will become law without Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature.

The budget releases funding to Penn State Extension, 4-H, the Centers for Dairy and Beef Excellence, the All-American Dairy Show and Keystone International Livestock Exposition.

Wolf, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that he would not veto the bill, meaning it will automatically become law.

Wolf had earlier threatened to veto the latest spending package, which restored funding he had line-item vetoed in December.

The supplemental bill, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature on March 16, will become law on March 27.

Wolf said he could not sign “a budget that simply does not add up,” but he said he would let the budget stand to prevent hardships to schools and seniors suffering because of the impasse.

Republicans were still concerned by Wolf’s expressed desire to veto the fiscal code, which could delay funding for Farm Show premiums, fairs, state vet labs and race horse drug testing, said Mike Rader, executive director of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

The Senate would need a two-thirds vote to override a veto, Rader said.

Wolf has urged legislators to pass a “fiscally sustainable” budget for 2016-17 that deals with an expected $2 billion deficit.

“We need to make sure we do this right — the practices of the past and one-term fixes must stop. We need a budget that moves the commonwealth forward,” said Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Fleetwood and minority chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Farm groups had become increasingly concerned about the ag budget in recent weeks.

Penn State had been covering the state’s share of Extension funding since July but had warned that, without state aid, it would have to lay off 1,100 Extension employees starting in May.

“The influx of state money will save vital agriculture research and Extension programs administered by Penn State University, which are so critical to farmers, the public and the state’s economy,” said Rick Ebert, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Republican leaders expressed relief that the budget, due last June, was approaching completion.

“It is a reasonable, responsible budget, and I am very pleased it will become law,” said Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, chairman of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee.

Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade contributed reporting.


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