In this Update:
Gov. Wolf’s Budget Would Require a Future Tax Hike, Can’t be Enacted
In an address to the General Assembly, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion 2022-23 state budget that would increase General Fund spending by $4.5 billion.
I was disappointed that the governor’s final budget address ignored the crisis of skyrocketing school property taxes.
In his first year, he talked about the importance of reducing school property taxes and I commended him for bringing it up. However, there hasn’t been one mention on that subject that’s come from his office since that first year.
The new spending includes $2 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Including the expenditure of federal dollars returned to Pennsylvania during the pandemic, the governor’s budget represents a 10.9% increase in spending.
According to Senate Appropriations Committee budget projections, the governor’s plan will produce a $1.3 billion deficit for the 2023-24 fiscal year and create an even bigger bill for Pennsylvania taxpayers to pay long after the governor leaves office: a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
You don’t take one-time federal dollars and put them into operating expenses. It’s a recipe for disaster. You’re looking at a 1.5% increase in the personal income tax in three years if his budget is adopted. He’s not going to be here. He’s going to lay this problem on the shoulders of someone else.
The Senate and House of Representatives will review the governor’s plan and propose alternative budget legislation. Under the state constitution, a new budget must be in place by June 30.
The people of Pennsylvania deserve an honest budget and a budget we can live with, and with no surprises in a couple years. Because that’s what you’re looking at with this budget proposal – a 1.5% personal income tax increase. I’m not supporting this budget because that’s what it’s going to cause.
The Senate will hold a series of public hearings in the coming weeks to review the spending plan and produce a more responsible budget proposal that funds essential services while shielding taxpayers from the consequences of reckless overspending.
Budget Address Did Not Mention School Property Taxes – So I Did
I was deeply disappointed this week when the Governor did not mention the immense burden of school property taxes in his final budget address. As such, I was not going to let this week go by without my colleagues on both sides of the aisle not hearing about this issue. I will continue to speak week after week on the floor of the senate and share letters from my constituents. This week, I shared the heartbreaking stories of Bonnie and Pat who are both seniors who live in Monroe County.
Legislation Boosting Aid to First Responders Set for Enactment
Building on a promise to provide Pennsylvania’s frontline heroes with relief, the Senate approved legislation to provide $25 million in federal funding to support EMS providers.
Since January, the General Assembly has advanced measures totaling $250 million for frontline workers, health care providers, emergency services and EMTs. The passage of Senate Bill 739 builds on the General Assembly’s recent efforts to distribute $225 million in federal relief funds for hospital and behavioral health providers to retain and recruit staff.
The measure also would ensure that all fire companies – whether volunteer, paid or combination department – are eligible for the low-interest loans through the Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Loan Program. Voters approved expanding the program in a 2021 ballot question.
Updated Agritourism Guide Available to Farmers
Agritourism activities – like corn mazes, hayrides, on-site dining/retail operations and educational programs – are a growing part of Pennsylvania’s agriculture economy.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has an updated 128-page handbook to help farmers navigate agritourism issues.
Last year, the General Assembly approved a new law to better protect farmers who offer these kinds of agritourism activities.
Grants Available to Reduce Underage and Dangerous Drinking
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is accepting applications for grants to fund programs that discourage and reduce underage and dangerous drinking and promote a message of responsible alcohol consumption by those of legal drinking age.
Eligible grant applicants include school districts and institutions of higher education (including technical, trade and post-secondary establishments), community organizations, municipal police departments, municipal officials/representatives and nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
The deadline to apply for grants is March 18. Applications and guidelines for submission are available on the PLCB website.
Monday is National Donor Day
Monday isn’t just Valentine’s Day, it’s also National Donor Day. Many health groups use this day to sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups.
Organ donation saves lives and saves money, cutting health care costs by as much as two-thirds and saving Medicare millions of dollars every year.
The General Assembly passed the Living Donor Protection Act last year, prohibiting insurers from discriminating against an organ or tissue donor. It also ensures family and medical leave is provided for an eligible employee for the preparation and recovery necessary for donation surgery. In addition, it requires development of informational materials relating to living donors and the benefits of live organ and tissue donation.
Around the 40th
It was my honor on Monday to introduce Senate Guest Chaplain, Rabbi Baruch Melman. Since 2007, he has served as Rabbi and Spiritual Leader of the Temple Israel of the Poconos. During his time there he has had a focus on education, outreach, social action, and Interfaith dialogue.
He has also been an active Member of the Rotary Club of the Stroudsburgs since 2008. Rabbi Melman was joined in Harrisburg by Thomas Wilkins CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates. Thank you Rabbi for offering today’s opening prayer Rabbi.
The Monroe County Bar Association will be offering a FREE legal virtual seminar on the topic “Employee Rights in the COVID-19 era” on Friday, March 11th. Registration is required.
Please see the attached flyer for more details and contact Bar Association with questions regarding the seminar at 570-424-7288. Register here.
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