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In this Email Update:
Governor presents budget to legislature
The governor presented his annual budget plan on Tuesday to the state legislature in which he called for more tax increases on all Pennsylvanians. At this rate, I'm afraid that this debate could go on for years.
When will the governor realize that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat fight?
His calls for higher taxes simply do not have the support of most Pennsylvanians, especially those in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
His budget proposal threatens ongoing bipartisan efforts in the Senate to eliminate school property taxes. His tax increases, without an elimination of the school property tax, are a bad deal for our taxpayers.
In 2014, the voters elected a divided government – with historic Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives and a Democrat governor – however, I don’t think they elected a dysfunctional government. The following quote from House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) summed up the governor’s budget request very well:
“I was hoping [the governor] was going to come back from Fantasyland, instead he left for Neverland. And until he returns to the realities of the challenges facing the people of this state, we’re going to continue to confront these challenges head on, because we are not going to rubberstamp $3.6 billion in higher taxes for 3 billion in higher spending and ignore all the other issues that are priorities for the people across [the state] in the past and in the future.”
You can view the governor’s budget proposal on my website specially designed to provide information on the state budget – please visit the website here.
The governor’s budget calls for $3.6 billion in tax hikes to support a $33.28 billion spending plan for 2016-17.
Here is a spending breakdown of the governor’s latest budget proposal --
Senate vote to remove Attorney General Kane falls short
While I joined a majority of Senators on Wednesday in favor of a resolution removing Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office due to the suspension of her license to practice law in Pennsylvania, the measure failed to meet the two-thirds majority specified by the Pennsylvania Constitution in order to directly remove an elected official from office.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously voted on September 21 to suspend Kane’s license based on accusations of perjury and other charges stemming from a leak of grand jury information. The newly elected, Democrat-majority state Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed that decision last week.
The House of Representatives recently approved House Resolution 659, which authorizes a House committee to investigate the Attorney General’s conduct and determine if she should be subject to impeachment.
Joint hearing focuses on line item veto and distribution of funds
The Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees held a joint public hearing Monday to discuss the expenditure of funds during the recent budget impasse.
The hearing focused on the State Treasurer’s role in approving requests for payment from state executive agencies during the time period when no legal authority existed for payments to be made.
This has raised serious questions and concerns for how services critical to the safety, health and welfare of Pennsylvania’s residents will receive funding during a budget impasse or when funding is cut or reduced following a governor’s line item veto.
Options for schools to meet 180-day requirement sent to governor
A measure giving schools greater flexibility to meet the state’s 180-day requirements for classroom instruction after emergency and weather-related closings was sent to the governor this week for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 158 would provide potential scheduling options for school entities facing extended closings that include a school year with a minimum number of hours of instruction, in lieu of the 180-day requirement, and approving additional instruction days on not more than one Saturday a month.
Also sent to the governor was Senate Bill 166, which would allow expungement of some misdemeanors.
On Wednesday the Senate approved and sent to the governor House Bill 561, which provides an Earned Income Tax (EIT) exemption for active duty military pay and House Bill 941, which amends the Administrative Code to:
Senate committee holds hearing on fireworks bill
The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on a bill that would legalize the sale of fireworks in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 1055 would lift the ban on the sale of “consumer” fireworks, known as “Class C” fireworks, and allow businesses legally operating in the state to sell consumer fireworks -- such as bottle rockets, roman candles and mortars -- to Pennsylvania residents without the need for a permit.
Written testimony from the public hearing is available here.
You can watch the hearing in its entirety here.
Senate sends four bills to the House
The Senate approved four bills this week and sent the measures to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 489 reduces the maximum fee that a check casher may charge for cashing government checks.
Senate Bill 568 makes changes for guardianship in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 1296 expands the financial products that municipalities, school districts, and municipal authorities may invest their general fund moneys. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 889 extends benefits to enforcement officers and investigators of the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will convene on Monday, February 22 at
10 a.m. for their first of three weeks of state budget hearings. The committee
will conduct an in-depth review of the governor’s budget proposal. Stay tuned to
my website for more information and
links to watch the hearings live.
Here is a complete schedule of budget hearings in the Senate.