Government Affairs Update

PA State Budget Signed

On Friday, June 28, Governor Tom Wolf signed the General Fund Appropriations Bill (House Bill 790) into law, approving a state general fund budget of nearly $34 billion for fiscal year 2019-2020. The spending plan represents a nearly 2% increase, or $596 million, over 2018-2019 while imposing no new taxes. Governor Wolf also signed House Bill 1354, approving the School of Veterinary Medicine non-preferred appropriation at nearly $32 million—a 2% increase over the prior year. Additionally, support for the state’s Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission earned a $2 million increase—the first increase in six years. This funding supports New Bolton Center’s animal health lab, which is one of three such labs in a statewide system built to test for and diagnose diseases that threaten animal and public health, the state’s food supply, and major animal agricultural industries.

Funding to the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program, or CURE, will be held level at $51.3 million for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Penn has leveraged CURE funding to advance new treatments for tobacco addiction and smoking cessation, while also developing in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revolutionary treatments using Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells that attack and kill cancer cells. Penn receives approximately $6 million of CURE funding each year.

New Staff at OGCA

The Office of Government and Community Affairs welcomed three new staff members over the previous academic year.

In May 2018, Jamie Spagna joined the office as OGCA coordinator. She has worked in state and local government for two decades, serving as a staffer in the state Senate; the City of Philadelphia, including the Mayor’s Office; and the School District of Philadelphia. 

Cassie Tomkins was named associate director of OGCA in June 2018. Previously, she worked as an assistant director for the Fels Institute of Government, and she completed her master’s degree in public administration from Penn in May.

Michael Smith assumed the role of director of Commonwealth Relations in November 2018. He has served in senior-level positions with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 2005, developing strong relationships with agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction and General Assembly. Prior to joining Penn, Mr. Smith was executive deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, where he worked closely with the leadership of Penn Vet.

—Jeffrey Cooper, Vice President, Government and Community Affairs