Senate Budget Hearings:
- Independent Fiscal Office
- Department of State
- Auditor General
- Attorney General
- State System of Higher Education
- State Police/Homeland Security
Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget
Senate Appropriations Committee is holding
three weeks of public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed
2017-2018 state budget. Summaries and video of each of the first week’s hearings
are listed below. I will follow up with the remaining hearings over the next two
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Senate Appropriations Committee kicked off three weeks of public hearings
on Governor Wolf’s proposed 2017-18 state budget with a review of the State
Treasurer Joe Torsella’s budget request. Topics covered included:
- Merging state and municipal pension plan management.
- Merging Treasury special funds to save money.
- The department’s new code of conduct policy.
- The status of ABLE savings accounts for Pennsylvanians living with
- State debt and the Governor’s proposed cost savings.
- Proposed Farm Show Complex lease-back.
- TAP Guarantee Program for college savings.
- The possibility of more investment options for pension holders.
- SERS/PSERS staffing levels.
- The need for pension reform.
- Details to justify Treasury staffing request.
- Pension fund investment fees and returns.
Independent Fiscal Office
Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel briefed the committee on
the economic outlook for the coming fiscal year as well as debt levels and
general revenue trends. Committee members focused on the following topics:
- The short-term and long-term budget impacts of public pension costs and
- Projected economic activity and job growth in the state over the next
- Revenues from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee and the Governor’s proposed
- The impact of a minimum wage increase on employment and state revenues.
- Differences in projected business tax and personal income tax revenues
by the Administration and the IFO.
- The proposed expansion of the sales and use tax.
- Challenges created by a potential move to performance-based budgeting.
- Lottery and gaming revenues and funding of programs and services for
- Impact of the Governor’s proposed net operating loss cap.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Department of State
The committee questioned Secretary Pedro Cortes about plans to increase the
number of registered voters by 75,000, along with the following topics:
- Online business registration.
- Salary and benefit costs and employee contributions.
- The length of time to conduct professional licensure complaint
- Staffing levels and vacancies.
- Voter fraud by people coming from other states.
- The Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system and integrity
of county voter rolls.
- Pennsylvania’s involvement with the Electronic Registration Information
- Publishing legal notices in print media vs. online media.
- Pennsylvania’s status as the only state to use digital signature upload
feature for online voter registrations.
- Record-high complaints filed with department.
- Ensuring enough modern voting machines in 2020.
- The low number of campaign finance reports being filed online.
- Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations contribution to the
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale discussed a variety of issues pertaining to
state and municipal pensions during a hearing with members of the Senate
Appropriations Committee. Other topics of conversation included:
- Preventing the abuse of public assistance programs.
- The benefits of competitive bidding for transportation projects.
- The upcoming audit of SIIF funding for the Unemployment Compensation
- Use of state-owned and leased office space.
- Problems identified in school district audits.
- Information Technology upgrades completed in recent years and the cost
- The results of recent audits of charter schools.
- Examination of drug treatment programs and options.
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Attorney General
Josh Shapiro on several law enforcement issues including:
- Efforts to crack down on drug traffickers and address the growing opioid
- The need to provide treatment and rehabilitation for non-violent
offenders, rather than incarceration.
- How funding will impact state efforts to crack down on child predators.
- The effectiveness of mandatory sentences, particularly for drug
- Legal and other obligations encumbered as a result of the actions of
Attorney General Kane.
- The need to restore trust and morale in the office and to rebuild the
- Whether counties are receiving the full reimbursement that they are
entitled to for full-time district attorneys.
- Improving the relationship between the department and all levels of law
- An analysis of technology needs and how they can improve law enforcement
Thursday, February 23, 2017
System of Higher Education
State System of Higher Education Chancellor Frank Brogan updated the
Appropriations panel on the status of the 14 universities and challenges they
are facing. Discussion focused on:
- The declining enrollment in many of the state universities.
- An ongoing study to determine how to sustain the viability of the State
System, boost enrollment and improve operations.
- Faculty requirements for teaching, advising and other duties.
- The cost of maintaining facilities that may not be in use.
- The debt load being carried by each university.
- Online universities and their impact on the State System.
- Assisting families and students in pursuing the appropriate degree
- How universities advertise and market their particular institutions.
- Alumni contributions and how they impact budgets.
- The rising cost of tuition and the amount of debt incurred by parents
- Salary increases for faculties versus the rate of inflation.
- Educational opportunities for veterans and programs available to them.
- Lower graduation rates.
State Police/Homeland Security
Col. Tyree Blocker discussed the State Police 2017-18 request of $1.272
billion. The following topics were discussed:
- The use of body cameras, audio and video recording of interviews and
other emerging technologies in training and policing.
- The heroin epidemic and cooperative intelligence gathering to crack down
on drug trafficking.
- The use of naloxone to reverse heroin overdoses, with 70 successful
- Staffing complement, attrition through retirements, and succession plans
to get to the 4,719 authorized complement
- The fairness and relationship to actual costs of the $25 per capita fee
for municipalities that rely on State Police coverage alone, along with the
possible use of a population threshold to calculate fees.
- The failed statewide radio project and ability to recover costs for a $1
billion project that never fully worked, due to terrain and other factors
- The use of radar by local police.
- The use of drug seizure money.
- The use of General Fund dollars versus Motor License Fund dollars under
Act 89 for police budgeting.
- The redeployment of troopers for gaming and other policing duties.
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Senate Box 203040
Monroe County Office
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123
2989 Route 611, Suite 103
Tannersville, PA 18372
Phone (570) 620-4326
FAX (570) 620-4379
9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Northampton County Office
2 North Robinson Avenue
Pen Argyl, PA 18072
Phone (610) 863-12001200
FAX (610) 863-1214
9 a.m.- 5 p.m.