Penn State's Ag Extension Offices Threatened in Budget Fight

February 29, 2016 05:59 AM
 
Penn State's Ag Extension Offices Threatened in Budget Fight

Penn State's agricultural extension offices and workers across the state could be laid off this spring if the school does not receive state government aid that remains hung up in a partisan budget battle, the university's president told trustees Friday.

Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh's chancellor delivered a similar warning to trustees Friday.

Penn State President Eric Barron told university trustees at a regular monthly meeting in Hershey that 1,100 agricultural extension workers could get layoff notices before May, without a thaw in the fight between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Agricultural extension offices in every county also face shutdown without the state subsidy, Barron said. The offices act as a liaison to the farming community and help relay Penn State's agricultural expertise to farm operators and families across the state, and support 4-H and master gardener programs.

"This is an incredibly serious issue," Barron said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told trustees that the schools are caught up in a "very serious game of brinksmanship" that could have "devastating consequences," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. He did not make a specific threat of layoffs, but said "there is no way to cut yourself out of a $150 million hole."

All told, some $600 million in aid is being held up to Penn State, Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school, while billions of dollars for public schools, prisons and health care for the poor remains in limbo.

Penn State received nearly $278 million in state aid last year, including $46 million for the agricultural extension offices. The budget fight has held up fresh aid to the school since July 1. Overall, state aid is a small slice of the school's $4.9 billion operating budget this school year.

Pitt received about $136 million last year. Its budget is about $2 billion.

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