Senator Mario Scavello E-Newsletter

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Week of March 5, 2018

In this Edition:

  • Around the 40th District
  • Budget Hearings
  • Gaming Control Board
  • Revenue/PA Lottery
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Education
  • Aging

Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget 

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am taking part in public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed 2018-2019 state budget. Summaries and video of each of the final week’s hearings are listed below. You can review previous hearings here and here.  Inclement weather caused postponement of the final two days of hearings. I’ll follow up with those summaries when the hearings are rescheduled.

Around the 40th District

Time to Set Our Clocks Ahead One Hour

Don’t forget to set you clocks ahead one hour Saturday night. Daylight Saving Time begins 2 a.m. Sunday (and ends November 4.) We lose an hour of sleep, but we gain an hour of sunlight!

“Thank You” to All Storm Responders

I want to extend a special thank you to the many linemen, tree cutting crews and fire/EMS crews that have worked tirelessly around the clock to restore power and meet the needs of residents throughout Monroe and Northampton counties following this week’s storms. We are grateful for your service.

Tips on Food Safety after Power Outage

When storms and high winds cause power outages, safe food handling becomes a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping refrigerated and frozen foods at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Generally, a refrigerator will keep food safely cool for about four hours, while a full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours or, if the freezer is half full, for approximately one day. The PA Department of Agriculture has some tips for what to do with your food during and after a power outage.

Penn State Extension wants to hear from Farmers & Related Professionals

Farmers and Related Professionals: Penn State Extension would like to learn about your interests in programs and educational resources on field and forage crop production and related agricultural management practices.

Taking a 10-minute online survey will help the Extension plan in-person programs, publications, and online resources for crop producers and professionals who work with clients in the agricultural community.

Budget Hearings

Monday March 5, 2018

Gaming Control Board

3/5/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: Gaming Control Board

Senator Scavello questioned the board about its finances and request for increased funding. He also discussed available help for gambling addiction, efforts to prevent underage gambling, and economic activity generated by casinos.

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fielded questions on how expanded gaming opportunities will impact the state and how they will be regulated.  Other questions centered on:

  • New jobs created by new Category 4 “mini casino” licenses and other expanded gaming.
  • The impact of pension costs on the board’s budget.
  • The implementation of Video Gaming Terminals at truck stops.
  • Regulations that will be established to ensure proper control of Category 4 casinos.
  • Ensuring proper surveillance and security of VGTs.
  • Gaming options at airports.
  • Efforts to support Pennsylvania’s horse racing facilities.
  • The amount of slot machine revenue going toward property tax relief.
  • The impact of casinos on local economic development.
  • Help for gambling addictions and efforts to crack down on underage gambling.
  • The continued presence of the PA State Police at casinos, whether it is warranted and who pays for it.
  • A status report on slot machine revenues versus table game revenues.

Full Hearing

Revenue Department and Lottery

3/5/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: Revenue / Lottery

Senator Scavello asked Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell about the additional employees needed to handle expanded gaming, upgrades to the department’s central computer system to accommodate Video Gaming Terminals, and projected revenue from internet Lottery and keno games. He also discuss revenue projections for the end of the fiscal year.

Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell fielded questions regarding tax collections, revenue trends and new lottery initiatives. Other topics of discussion included:

  • Spending for IT modernization.
  • Efforts to increase efficiency.
  • The impact of gaming expansion on lottery sales.
  • Legal issues regarding medical cannabis.
  • Spending for lottery advertising.
  • The projected impact of the Governor’s proposed Marcellus Shale extraction tax.
  • Anticipated revenues from internet lottery sales.
  • Efforts to prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Natural gas impact fee revenues.
  • Electronic filing of state income taxes.

Full Hearing

Community and Economic Development

3/5/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: DCED

Senator Scavello talked about the importance of tourism to our region and need for DCED to fund tourism promotion. He also sought details on Pennsylvania’s workforce development efforts, including the WEDnetPA job training program.

Representatives of the Department of Community and Economic Development answered questions related to Pennsylvania’s business climate. Topics of conversation included:

  • The state’s chances of submitting a winning bid for the new Amazon headquarters.
  • Additional funding proposed for the PA First program.
  • Steps the Department is taking to support Third Class cities.
  • The impact of Governor Wolf’s proposed cut to the Marketing to Attract Tourists program.
  • An update on vocational education and workforce development initiatives.
  • How to best match available jobs to qualified candidates.
  • Ways to measure the success of economic development programs.
  • Reasons why some municipalities struggle to recover from financially distressed status.
  • The department’s plans to implement the Federal Opportunity Zones Program.
  • Coordination of programs for businesses and host communities.
  • The impact of tax and regulatory proposals on Pennsylvania’s ability to attract and retain employers.
  • The availability of career and technical education programs for adults.
  • Resources available for residential utility assistance programs.
  • The involvement of trade unions in job training programs.
  • An update on the Neighborhood Assistance Program.
  • The impact of international trade on Pennsylvania’s economy.
  • The latest status of the ethane cracker plant in southwest Pennsylvania.
  • Governor Wolf’s refusal to allow new applications for the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone program.

Full Hearing

Tuesday March 6, 2018

Education

3/6/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: Education (Part 1 of 2)

In questioning Secretary Pedro Rivera about his budget request, Senator Scavello discussed a pilot program at the Penn Argyl School District to help students with dyslexia, funding for community college operating expenses, all-day vocational education, and more.

The Appropriations Committee questioned Secretary Pedro Rivera about ways to ensure the massive state education budget is being spent efficiently and effectively. Topics covered include:

  • The difficulty for parents finding school performance scores online.
  • The delays in cyber-charter school renewals
  • The Administration’s stance on a lawsuit seeking more spending for school districts.
  • The financial unsustainability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
  • The shortcomings of the current Keystone Exam system.
  • The lack of Administration assistance in finding an alternative to school property taxes to fund education.
  • The need for state funding for school safety to have standards for efficient, effective spending.
  • The prospect of allowing state funding for community colleges to be used on operational expenses.
  • The advantages of all-day vocational education over transporting students from high school to vo-tech schools.
  • The need to do more to help students prepare for technical careers.
  • Senate-passed legislation allowing school districts to train staff to arm themselves to boost school safety.
  • Lack of measurements to justify massive new spending levels.
  • The status of a pending report on agriculture education.
  • Disbursement of state PLANCON funds for school construction.
  • The ongoing challenge of turning around academically distressed school districts.
  • The method of school districts reporting school bullying data to the state.
  • The Keystone Exam graduation requirement.
  • The total cost of the Keystone Exams contract since 2010.
  • Problems caused by level state support for school transportation while costs increase.
  • The need for security risk assessment in PA schools.
  • The finding that PA spends $15,000 per student compared to national average of $11,000, but without better results.
  • The need to reform the outdated charter school funding formula.

Full Hearing

Aging

3/6/18 - Budget Hearing Q&A: Aging

Senator Scavello asked about the impact of federal appropriations being moved from the Lottery Fund to the General Fund, and the impact of an aging population on programs for Pennsylvania seniors and the overall state budget. He also stressed the huge burden the property taxes place on senior citizens, and the need to find a better funding source for schools.

Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne discussed the challenges Pennsylvania is facing in meeting the needs of a growing aging population including:

  • Outreach programs for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Projections in growth for the state’s senior population.
  • Programs in the state budget that impact senior citizens.
  • The importance of the state Lottery and the programs it funds.
  • The role of Area Agencies on Aging in providing long-term care.
  • Seniors selling prescribed opioids to pay for other medications.
  • Adjustments in the PACE reimbursement program.

Full Hearing

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