Pennsylvania will soon be introduced to a new state bureaucracy. As lawmakers were finishing up the state budget, legislation was overwhelmingly approved and later signed by the Governor, to create a new department (subscription only), the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Oversight of the state’s drug and alcohol programs currently resides within the Department of Health.
Extra costs for this new department are estimated to be around $1.5 to $2.1 million. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said the department will “consolidate” and create a “cohesive” strategy for the investment of dollars into state drug and alcohol programs.
Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, voiced criticism against the department, saying the state has “just come off a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very tough budget year back-to-back.” He also pointed out that the department would start out small but would likely grow over the upcoming years.
However, Wozniak acknowledged the state does have drug and alcohol problems. In fact, state government also suffers from addiction, and their drug of choice is spending! In a budget year riddled with shortfalls and stimulus funds that will disappear, a $2.1 billion department seems financially burdensome.
Also attached to this bill were changes to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, or PHEAA. Some legislative board members are to be replaced with private sector individuals experienced in finance, banking, and term lengths will be reduced to four years. These changes are a positive step towards privatizing PHEAA to create a more efficient and productive agency.