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Senator Argall

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Toll Free: 1-877-327-4255

Harrisburg Office
Senate Box 203029
171 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3029
717-783-8657 FAX


District Offices

One West Centre Street
P.O. Box 150
Mahanoy City, PA 17948
570-773-1675 FAX

61 North Third Street
Hamburg, PA 19526-1501
610-562-6895 FAX
(Shared with Representative
Jerry Knowles)

100 North Centre Street
Pottsville, PA 17901
570-622-6629 FAX
(Shared with Representative Mike Tobash)

Spring Township
2850 Windmill Road
Spring Township, PA 19608

237 West Broad Street
Tamaqua, PA 18252
570-952-3374 FAX
(Shared with Representative
Jerry Knowles)

Follow Sen. Argall on Twitter for Senate happenings – @SenatorArgall

In this Email Update:

  • “Skyrocketing property tax” key issue for Dept. of Aging
  • Overtime spending and staffing levels explored at hearing with Dept. of Corrections
  • Finding efficient use of 4,000 facilities under control of PennDOT
  • Penn State President: school is being leveraged in tax debate
  • Spending by state agency
  • Digging deeper on state-owned and leased property with Dept. of General Services
  • On Deck

“Skyrocketing property tax” key issue for Dept. of Aging

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the state budget proposed by the governor for Fiscal Year 2016-17, I focused on two lines of Secretary Osborne’s testimony she presented on behalf of the Department of Aging.  

Secretary Osborne’s statement reads, “Pennsylvania’s seniors have worked hard to raise their families, build our communities and protect our country in times of crisis. They deserve to live their lives without fear of losing their home due to skyrocketing local property taxes […]”

Senator Argall

I asked Secretary Osborne why the governor’s administration is opposed to the elimination of school property taxes. You may recall that the lieutenant governor was the tiebreaking vote in a November. After confirming that members of the governor’s cabinet along with the lieutenant governor meet on a regular basis, I encouraged her to remind the administration that all Pennsylvanians deserve to live their lives without fear due to skyrocketing property taxes.  

I just wish the rest of the administration agreed with Secretary Osborne – I told her that I’m currently one vote short in the Senate out of 49 senators. I asked for her help to assist me in finding that one additional vote to turn her sentiment into reality.   

You can watch our discussion here.

Overtime spending and staffing levels explored at hearing with Dept. of Corrections

One of the highest costs within the state corrections agency is overtime spending. Despite historic drops in inmate population due to several reforms enacted over the last few years, the cost for corrections continues to increase. One of the major reasons behind those increases is overtime spending for corrections officers.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel confirmed at our hearing on Monday that overtime spending for 2014-15 peaked at $105 million and spending for overtime in the current fiscal year is supposed to be around $96 million. He’s anticipating overtime spending for Fiscal Year 2016-17 to be close to $90 million.

My concern is that we have a declining inmate population but the department is still one of the fastest growing departments in state government.

You can see a chart showing the largest increases in state spending proposed by the governor in his latest budget request here.

I asked Secretary Wetzel about the overtime costs and authorization. I also asked him about future protocol for state prison closures (there are two state corrections facilities located in the 29th Senatorial District).

You can watch our discussion here.

I’ve sponsored a resolution to look into and make recommendations how we can curb overtime spending. Read more about that effort here.

Finding efficient use of facilities under control of PennDOT

Senator Argall

During Monday afternoon’s hearing with the Department of Transportation, I asked Secretary Richards about the facilities PennDOT owns and leases across the state.

Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) and I are looking at measures to create efficiencies within state government when it comes to state-owned and leased office space, storage, parking and other facilities. Read more about our efforts here.

You can watch our discussion here.

Penn State: school is being leveraged in tax debate

A February 15, 2016, a PennLive headline stated “Gov. Tom Wolf asks Penn State's help in fight for tax increases.” The article discusses the effort of John Hanger, the governor’s former Secretary of Policy and Planning, pushing Penn State to no longer remain neutral in the fight for increased taxes supported by the governor.

During Wednesday’s hearing with the state-related universities, including Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln, Penn State President expressed its concern of being used as a pawn for the governor’s tax increases. Hanger wrote in an email to Penn State trustees, “If there is not enough support for revenues, then the trustees should not be surprised by massive cuts to education, including at PSU.”

Read the full article here.

On Wednesday, Penn State’s Provost appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss his frustration with being pushed into a debate over higher taxes.

Speaking on behalf of Penn State President Barron, the Provost testified, “As we look ahead to 2016-17, Penn State is an unprecedented position, having received no appropriations whatsoever, and we face the very real prospect that we won’t receive any financial support for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The situation is made more challenging that for the last six months, we were led to believe that our appropriations was delayed due to timing. Now it appears that our state appropriation is simply a tool to be leveraged in the full budget/taxation debate.”

Spending by state agency

Here is how the governor’s $33.3 billion budget request for Fiscal Year 2016-17 would breakdown based on state agency and department, in order from the most to least expensive.

Below are the top five highest spending state agencies –

Digging deeper on state-owned and leased property with Dept. of General Services

On Tuesday, Secretary Topper of the Department of General Services, who oversees all state leases and purchase agreements, discussed his efforts to find efficiencies and reduce the state’s overall footprint.

His department oversees approximately 7 million square feet in leased space all across the state. I asked him if he had any data to share showing that the state has reduced its office space due to the more than 30 percent reduction in state employees over the last several decades.

While I was disappointed that he did not, he did note that his department has reduced its leased office space by 173,000 square feet, which is about 30 percent larger than the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s facility across the street from the State Farm Show Complex.  Now, we need to be sure that all state agencies make this same effort.

Secretary Topper assured me that his department is looking to continue on this trend over the next few years.  I plan to make this issue a priority, not just for this agency, but for all state agencies.  If we are successful, this effort could save our taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.

You can watch our discussion here.

On Deck

The Senate Appropriations Committee will convene on Monday, March 7 at 10 a.m. for our final week of state budget hearings with the Department of Human Services. You can visit my website for more information and links to watch the hearings live. To see a complete schedule of next week’s hearings, please visit here.

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