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In this email update:
Governor’s budget speech provides starting point
Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his proposed $32.338 billion General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18 before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
The governor’s proposal represents a $571.5 million (1.8 percent) increase in spending from the FY 2016-17 budget. It also projects a shortfall of $640 million in anticipated revenues for FY 2016-17. The most recent Independent Fiscal Office projection is a $716 million shortfall.
The governor’s budget proposal recognizes a $3 billion preliminary deficit for FY 17-18. To fill that gap, the governor is proposing $2 billion in cuts and savings initiatives and $1 billion in new taxes.
The governor’s budget proposal provides a starting point that I hope will be a bipartisan sharing of ideas to reduce the size and cost of state government. However, we need to look at all programs and agencies; not just a select few.
For example, after Rep. Knowles and I called on the Auditor General to look at how funds were spent within the Department of Labor and Industry, it was revealed that the state lost out on $15 million due to fiscal mismanagement. (Read more in PennLive’s story titled “Errors uncovered in unemployment compensation delay efforts to improve services to jobless” here.)
Our goal should be to reduce the dependence on government programs across the board, shrink the size and scope of state government and most importantly, reduce the burden on taxpayers.
The Senate’s consideration of the governor’s proposals will begin later this month with three weeks of budget hearings before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
I’m compiling questions for those hearings based on important issues to the residents of Berks and Schuylkill counties. Please feel free to share with me your ideas for questions to ask at the upcoming state budget hearings by replying to this email.
Volpe Report TV show to discuss state budget
On Thursday, I taped a segment of FOX 56’s Volpe Report with host Chuck Volpe to discuss the governor’s recent state budget address and my legislative priorities for this year.
The report will air on FOX 56 on Sunday, February 12 at 11:30 a.m.
The report will also be available here.
Be sure to tune-in!
Defenders of status quo aim to defeat school property tax elimination efforts
Over the last several weeks, school districts all across the state have held media events, public meetings and closed-door meetings to discuss their opposition to efforts to eliminate school property taxes. Newspaper articles and opinion pieces have been published showing the opposition’s fear of shifting from a regressive school property tax system to a hybrid approach of increased income and sales taxes (more in line with one’s ability to pay).
I am often credited as the originator of the idea, but as I’ve pointed out several times over this battle, this is not my bill, nor is it a bill from any member of the legislature. This is a bipartisan bill drafted by over 80 grassroots groups from across the state dedicated to eliminating this hated and archaic school property tax once and for all.
After the barrage of attacks, the Morning Call conducted a poll on their website asking viewers to weigh in on the debate. Over 76 percent of participants voted their support of Senate Bill 76! Over 2,000 individuals participated in the survey.
Senate approves several major reform bills
The Senate approved bills this week modifying Pennsylvania’s abortion law, improving safety by addressing dangerous illegal aliens, reforming government, and setting equitable pay standards.
The bills, which now head to the House of Representatives, include:
Senate Bill 3, which amends the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks and prohibits dismemberment abortion.
Senate Bill 10, which holds a “municipality of refuge” accountable for not enforcing state and federal laws relating to immigration.
Senate Bill 166, which ensures that political campaign funds are not collected by public sector unions through government-provided mechanisms with taxpayer resources.
Senate Bill 170, which requires comprehensive reform measures at the Delaware River Port Authority.
Senate Bill 181, which establishes a performance-based budget component.
Senate Bill 241, which prohibits sexual discrimination in employee pay rates.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold three weeks of public hearings on the state budget starting Tuesday, February 21. Please visit my website www.SenatorArgall.com/Budget for more information, including the hearing schedule.