Jul. 05, 2019 / Email Archives

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Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
 
State Budget Summary

For the second year in a row, Pennsylvania has delivered a state budget on time. The final two weeks of June were very busy at the Capitol as the budget was meted out and passed. I spent many a late night reading code bills, including one on the sofa in my office in the Capitol. Here is a summary of some of the highlights from this year’s budget.

Top Line Spending
As I reported in an earlier post, the total 2019-20 budget will be $33.997 billion, up from the $32.7 billion enacted last year. That represents an effective increase of 4.7% when all spending is included. The general metrics of growth indicate an increase of only 2.12%. It is unsustainable for spending to exceed growth, which is why I did not support the general budget bill.

Taxes
As a result of a relatively robust economy, tax revenues have been strong. Even with the expansion in spending noted above, next year’s budget did not require an increase in taxes.

Education
For the fifth year in a row, Pennsylvania’s spending on K-12 education will increase, even at a rate above inflation. Our local schools will see the following increases: Chambersburg- 2.9% increase netting $1,206,621 additional dollars, Greencastle- 3.5% increase netting $422,399 additional dollars and Waynesboro- 2.4% increase netting $560,166 additional dollars. Increases are based upon a series of factors, including growth in enrollment, poverty, etc. In addition to basic education funding, increases were also made to special education, PreK Counts, school safety, public libraries and the EITC, which is a tax credit benefitting both public and private schools.

Career and Technical Education
The new budget includes an additional $10 million for career and technical education. Both the governor and the legislature recognize that Pennsylvania is falling behind in training the next generation. In recognition of their success in technical training, both Thaddeus Stevens and Penn College of Technology will each receive an extra $4 million to expand their enrollment. Graduates of these two outstanding public technical institutions enjoy a 99% placement rate following graduation.

Human Services
Mental health services will receive an increase of $26.3 million, which will mostly pass to the individual counties that provide these services. The Intellectual Disability Waiver Program budget increased by $84.8 million, which will help to fund home and community-based care. There are currently 865 Pennsylvanians on a waiting list for these services. There will also be an additional $12 million for homecare workers who care for elderly Pennsylvanians.

State Police
The budget does not levy a state police fee on municipalities, as had been proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf. The budget does add $97 million to the General Fund to help cover state police expenses, including three new classes of cadets to help fill positions left open from retirements over the last several years.

Agriculture
Increased funding to existing and previously unfunded line items under the Department of Agriculture are included to the tune of $19.5 million, which is a 12.8% increase in agricultural funding. Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s top industry but has experienced some challenges in recent years.

Debt Service
Payments to general obligation debt increased by $26 million. Although it is admirable that Pennsylvania is dedicating more of its budget to paying down our debt, this increase is paltry compared to the amount of debt that we carry. State pensions, which are our largest source of debt, are currently underfunded by over $74 billion.

“Rainy Day Fund”
This year’s budget included $250 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The fund acts like a savings account and is intended to help the Commonwealth through economic downturns without the necessity of additional borrowing. Credit rating agencies maintain that Pennsylvania should have a fund balance of $1.5 billion. Setting aside $250 million is a step in the right direction; however, the irresistible temptation will be to spend the money in this fund either during the coming year or as a means of continuing the elevated spending levels in next year’s budget. That being the case, I strongly lobbied for these funds to be applied to our outstanding debt.

Compulsory School Age
Within the larger Education Code bill is a provision changing the compulsory school age from age 8 to age 6 and from age 17 to age 18. This change brings Pennsylvania in line with 48 other states. Age 8 to age 17 was made the compulsory school age in 1890. This new provision was added to the code bill at the last minute through an amendment in the Senate. Nearly all school children in Pennsylvania begin school at age 5. Those under age 18 who have graduated, regardless of their age, are exempted from this new provision. This change was a specific request of the governor and is intended to help children in urban, dysfunctional homes who sometimes start school much later than their peers, making it harder to catch up. Although this change only impacts 0.1% of the children in this age range, I include it in this newsletter because a few constituents in the home school community have raised concerns. They said it may adversely impact students who are not ready to begin their education until after age 6 or who graduate before age 18 from a program that is not certified. In the coming weeks I will be assessing the extent of this unintended problem and, if needed, proposing a legislative fix.
 

PennDOT’s Schedule for July 8 to 12
  • Pipe replacement on Back Road in Metal Township
  • Crack Sealing on Harbaugh Church Road in Washington Township.
  • Pothole patching on Interstate 81 in Greene Township. Anticipate a lane closure.
  • Crack sealing on Pen Mar Road in Washington Township.
  • Crack sealing on U.S. 11 (Molly Pitcher Highway) in Greene Township.
  • Crack sealing on Slabtown Road in Quincy Township.
 
 
PennDOT Accepting Applications for Winter Maintenance Positions

Individuals seeking seasonal employment are encouraged to apply for a variety of winter maintenance positions now open through PennDOT.

The program runs from September through April, and includes positions for transportation equipment operators, diesel and construction equipment mechanics, automotive mechanics, tradesman helpers, clerks, clerk typists, stock clerks, welders, semi-skilled laborers and custodial workers.

Individuals in these positions supplement the permanent workforce and have the potential to lead to permanent full-time employment. Additional details about the positions, along with the job application, are available at www.employment.pa.gov. Click on “Open Jobs” and then go to “PennDOT Winter Program.”  
 
 
Antlerless Licenses on Sale Starting Monday

Application for the purchase of antlerless deer licenses begins this Monday, July 8, for Pennsylvania residents who already hold a 2019-20 hunting license.

Hunters wishing to apply may do so by sending a paper application with a check or money order to their local county treasurer’s office. Cost of a license is $6.90. Please click here to view contact information for your local county treasurer.

Nonresidents may submit their first applications a week later, beginning Monday, July 15.

Hunters are limited to purchasing one license at this time. In any Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) where antlerless licenses remain, resident and nonresident applicants may apply for a second license beginning Aug. 5.

Information on how many licenses have been allotted to each WMU, as well as how many have been purchased, is available by clicking here.

All successful applicants will receive their antlerless deer licenses after the second Monday in September.
 
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1402 E. Main Street, Waynesboro, PA 17268 | Phone: (717) 749-7384
1270 Crottlestown Road, Chambersburg, PA 17202 I Phone: (717) 263-1053
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