Funding levels for the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) have dropped off a cliff over the past few years. This year’s budget for DCED totals $213 million budget. The agency spent $327 million last year and $631 million four years before that.

The funding reduction asked for by Governor Corbett in March will result in some consolidations of business grant and low-interest loan programs.

In one move, the Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance was formed. The new programs combines funding for industrial development, industrial resource centers and small business development centers. But overall, the funding was cut by $4 million.

Not part of the budget, however, was the Governor’s proposal to create the Liberty Financing Authority. The plan would put 18 programs into one pool. The Governor says the consolidation would make loan and grant money for businesses and local governments more available and the process more transparent.

One of the loan and grant vehicles swallowed up by the move would be the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). Among other things, the CFA has awarded grant money to local governments for water and sewer projects funded by state bond money.

But the President of the Senate, Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, supports the CFA, according to a caucus spokesperson.

On another front, a summary of the legislation provided by DCED shows that changes will give the governor more power over the loan and grant process.

Under the draft, the Governor requires only one of eight legislative appointees to gain control over the process. Now, anyone of the four caucuses can block a move by the CFA, for instance.