Subventions for the Encouragement of Agriculture and for the Protection of Life and Property

In addition to the principal subventions for the advancement of education the state of Pennsylvania aids local governments in maintaining a number of miscellaneous services. These are by no means so important either financially or in their social effects as are the subventions for education. Like the subventions for education, however, those of the miscellaneous group are made chiefly to local governmental agencies. The purposes for which they are granted include highway construction and maintenance, waterfront improvements, protection against forest fires, the conduct of primary elections, the destruction of noxious animals, and the encouragement of agriculture. Only the last is granted to private organizations. With the exception of the grant in aid to counties and townships for highway construction and maintenance, these subventions present no striking points of difference from those already discussed and, therefore, may be briefly dealt with. The highway grant, which is, on the other hand, very important, will receive more elaborate treatment.

The grant to encourage agriculture is of very early origin but only in recent years has it assumed more than negligible importance as a financial matter. Throughout the period 1874-1916 the legislature allowed the state agricultural society a small amount annually to defray the cost of publishing its proceedings. *1 In 1907, however, the legislature provided for subsidies to pay premiums offered by agricultural associations at agricultural exhibitions and county fairs. *2 In 1914 this new form of public generosity cost the state treasury $58,409. *3

1 The amount was usually between two thousand and three thousand dollars annually. See Reports of Auditors General for years 1874-1916.

2 Act 13 June, 1907, P.L. pp. 702-703.

3 Aud. Gen. Report (1914), p. 677. 4 Act 10 April, 1907, P.L. pp. 60-61.

Another subvention of a similar sort is the bounty paid by the state for the destruction of dangerous and harmful wild animals. This subvention came into existence under an act of 1907. *4 Previous to that year state laws had been enacted requiring counties to pay bounties to persons who presented evidence of having killed certain wild animals, such as wolves and wildcats. The procedure in paying this subvention is very simple. The legislature has named the animals for whose destruction a bounty is to be paid and has fixed the amount of the bounty for each animal killed. Certain local officers are required to verify the statements of those claiming the bounty and the county treasurer is required to pay the amounts prescribed. Twice a year the county commissioners report these disbursements to the Auditor General who draws a warrant for the amount indicated by the county treasurers' accounts. The former officer may, of course, refuse to issue the warrant if the reports, accounts, etc., are not in proper form. In 1914 the payments from the state treasury for this purpose amounted to $17,361. *5

The subvention to the localities for the protection against forest fires was first paid in 1899. Since that date the subvention has been continuous, although the acts under which it is paid have been changed from time to time. The law of 1907, under which it is now paid, makes the constables of townships and of boroughs responsible for the extinguishment of forest fires. *6 These fire wardens and such assistants as they may employ are paid by the counties. The state then reimburses the local governments to the extent of two-thirds of the total payments. The duties of fire wardens are prescribed by the legislature and punishment is provided for those who neglect their duties There is practically no control by the state over the financial operations of the county with respect to these payments which amounted in 1914 to $18,166. *7

Another type of payment to assist the local governments is the appropriation for the expenses of holding uniform primary elections. This payment is scarcely in the nature of a grant since the local officers act as agents of the state. When the bill which provided for payment by the state was before the senate, in 1906, it was stated in debate that a "good many" members of the House of Representatives objected to the expense that the uniform primary law would impose upon the counties. Hence the provision for assumption of the cost by the central government. *8 In 1914 the payments for this service amounted to $333,100. *9

5 Aud. Gen. Report (1914), p. 61.

6 Act 25 April, 1907, P.L. pp. 101-103.

7 Aud. Gen. Report (1914), p. 675.

8 See Legislative Record (1906), pp. 468, 605.

9 Aud. Gen. Report (1914), pp. 709-710.