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Budget Finally Finished, But Fiscal Code Veto Disappointing
Everyone was relieved that Governor Wolf finally allowed a 2015-16 budget (House Bill 1801) to become law without his signature or veto -- bringing an effective end to a nine-month impasse over his insistence on massive tax and spending increases.
The $30.031 billion spending plan restores much of the $6 billion in funding for essential programs and services that the Governor vetoed from the 2015-16 budget enacted last December and includes the highest education spending in state history without the need for tax increases. It was certainly past time for the Governor to close a shameful chapter in Pennsylvania’s history and eliminate the threat to schools posed by a lack of state funding.
While the Governor will let HB 1801 pass, he vetoed the accompanying Fiscal Code measure, House Bill 1327. I am extremely disappointed with this action. As it was sent to the Governor’s desk, the Fiscal Code would have provided important safeguards that protect local energy producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. The Fiscal Code, as passed by the Legislature, would also have removed Pennsylvania’s conventional well operations from the impending burden of the Administration’s new oil and gas well regulations.
In addition, the Governor’s veto of the Fiscal Code will directly impact schools since it freezes $150 million in additional funds for schools that was provided in the budget. House Bill 1801 specifically outlines that the new money cannot be distributed without enacting the Fiscal Code.
The Governor’s veto also cuts $289 million that was to address the state’s failure to provide promised reimbursements for school construction and renovations projects – commonly referred to as PLANCON (Planning and Construction Workbook). This means reimbursements will continue to be held up for a number of local school districts in our area, including Apollo-Ridge, Armstrong and Freeport Area in Armstrong County; Butler County AVTS and Mars Area in Butler County; Blairsville-Saltsburg, Purchase Line and United in Indiana County; and Kiski Area in Westmoreland County.
Senate Leadership is considering what appropriate actions are needed in the wake of the Governor’s veto and I will continue to push for the safeguards for our energy producers and their employees and for the release of the PLANCON reimbursements to be included in that package.
Updating Community Leaders on State Issues
Blairsville Mayor Ron Evanko (seated) invited me to say a few words at the Indiana County Borough Association’s March 30 meeting. I enjoyed the discussion on current issues facing Harrisburg and our local communities.
New Electronics Waste Recycling Website Launched
A new website, www.eWastePA.org, was recently launched to provide information on how to properly manage electronic waste such as old televisions and computer monitors, commonly referred to as e-waste.
The Covered Device Recycling Act (Act 108), enacted in 2010, prohibits the acceptance of ‘covered devices’ such as televisions, computers, computer monitors and all peripherals, at any Pennsylvania solid waste disposal facility. This prohibits residents from putting them out at the curb for pickup by their waste hauler.
The website answers basic questions consumers have about electronics recycling, such as information regarding Act 108 and locations of electronic recycling drop-off centers.
Spring Brings Renewed Revitalization to Our Communities
With weather improving, it's great to see renewed activity in our communities!
The revitalization efforts in downtown Indiana and Kittanning recently resumed, which means we’re going to have to deal with some short-term delays and inconvenience. Please use extra caution around work sites for the safety of everyone. Remember, this work now will make our home even better for the future.
Tax Time Offers Opportunity to Help Military Families
With tax time at hand, Pennsylvanians can help military families in times of crisis by donating all or some of their state income tax refund to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program (MFRAP).
MFRAP provides grants of up to $3,500 to eligible Pennsylvania service members and their family members who have a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
In addition to contributing through state tax returns, donations to MFRAP can also be made online at www.donate.dmva.pa.gov or by mail to DMVA Office of Veterans Affairs, Bldg. 0-47, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002.
Donations are tax deductible to the extent authorized by federal law. To learn more about MFRAP, visit www.mfrap.pa.gov.
Applications Now Accepted For Farm Tax Credits
Farmers can now apply for 2015-16 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program tax credits to install best management practices or make equipment purchases that reduce erosion and sedimentation.
Tax credits of up to $150,000 per agricultural operation are based on 50 to 75 percent of the project’s cost. The deadline to submit applications is April 22, 2016.
Applications for the 2015-2016 REAP program area are available at www.agriculture.pa.gov by clicking “protect,” then “State Conservation Commission,” then “REAP,” or by contacting Joel Semke at (717) 705-4032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the program began in 2007, REAP has awarded tax credits to 3,900 projects totaling more than $50 million. Public and private enterprises investments in REAP have contributed to the conservation projects, worth more than $128 million. From 2010 to 2014, REAP has helped reduce an estimated runoff of nearly 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen, 84,000 pounds of phosphorus and 9,000 tons of sediment.
State Police and American Legion Seek Youth Camp Applicants
The Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania American Legion are seeking applicants for “State Police Youth Week,” a week-long leadership camp held at York College designed for teenagers, ages 15-17, who are interested in a career in law enforcement or the military.
During the camp, cadets take part in team-building exercises, physical fitness training, classroom activities involving police and military careers, and a marksmanship course. Cadets will also visit the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey and Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Center in Lebanon County.
For application information, visit the Pennsylvania American Legion website at www.pa-legion.com and click on the “Programs” link or call the Pennsylvania American Legion Headquarters at (717) 730-9100.
PENNDOT Offering Free Motorcycle Training Classes
PENNDOT is again offering free motorcycle training programs – for beginners through seasoned riders – at 76 locations across the state.
For more information or to enroll in a course, visit www.pamsp.com or call toll-free (800) 845-9533. Potential riders who want a convenient way to study for their knowledge test can download the PA Motorcycle Practice Test app by visiting www.pa.gov and searching the mobile apps for the Pennsylvania Motorcycle License Practice Test.
Riders are also encouraged to visit www.LiveFreeRideAlive.com, an interactive website designed specifically for motorcyclists. The website challenges riders to take personal responsibility for their own safety and offers an open forum for riders to share experiences.
Mark Your Calendar
I am pleased to join with State
Representatives Dave Reed, Jeff Pyle and Cris Dush, as well as the Indiana
County Commissioners; the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce; and the PA
CareerLink® Indiana County in announcing that Job Fair 2016 will be held
on Thursday, April 14, at the S&T Bank Arena at the White Township Recreation
Complex in Indiana. Veterans will be admitted at 10:30 a.m. and the
general public will be admitted at 11 a.m. The Job Fair is free and will run
until 4 p.m. Candidates of all ages, experience levels, and industries are
encouraged to attend.
286 Main Capitol