Jan. 31, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
Governor’s Address to Kick Off 2020-21 Budget Process

The House and Senate will convene in a joint session of the General Assembly at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, to hear Gov. Tom Wolf outline his spending proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year. You can watch the address live at www.pahousegop.com.

The annual state budget is, in many ways, the most important thing the legislature does. By determining were the Commonwealth is going to put our money, the legislature directs state priorities for the coming year.

Although the governor sets out policy and funding objectives in an annual address to the legislature, the legislature, and not the governor, drafts and approves the budget. The governor’s signature is the last, but critical, component of that process.

The legislature starts the budgeting process with a series of hearings conducted by the House and Senate Appropriation committees beginning on Feb. 18. These committees hear from each state agency and learn how money was spent last year and what each agency’s objectives are for next year. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, you may consider tuning in to these hearings on PCN and you will soon find yourself getting drowsy.

The state constitution requires that the legislature pass a budget by the last day in June, so the budget process intensifies through the month of June, generally culminating in a late night on June 30th. Of course, the governor does not have to sign the budget that the legislature passes, which explains why our state budget is sometimes not finalized until much later in the year.

As with past years, I use my best efforts to ensure that my fellow legislators keep in sight two critical guideposts to budgeting: don’t increase the tax burden on Pennsylvanians and don’t spend more than we are projected to bring in. These are pretty basic principles for good policy, but the legislature and governor are inclined to break them every year. That explains why I have never voted for a state budget.

Finally, the state has failed to address our growing public pension obligation, which is now $74 billion in debt. Both Republicans and Democrats hate this issue because nobody gets kudos for spending money to pay down debt, so the obligation has been largely ignored. Don’t look for any action on this front in the 2021 budget, but those chickens will eventually come home to roost.

For a schedule of the appropriation hearings, click here. 
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications Now Available

Forms for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are now available for eligible Pennsylvanians to begin claiming rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2019. Remember – you do not need to pay anyone for assistance to apply for the rebates. Help is available from my office(s) at no charge.

The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The Revenue Department automatically calculates supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners.

Additional information, as well as claim forms, are available here.

The deadline to apply for a rebate is June 30, 2020. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1, as required by law.
New Law Allows Landowners to Mark Properties with Purple Paint

Pennsylvania has joined several other states in adopting a “purple paint law,” which provides landowners with an alternative to marking their properties as “no trespassing.”

Under the law, landowners may paint purple stripes on trees or posts to mark their properties. The lines must be vertical and at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. They must be 3 to 5 feet off the ground, readily visible to a person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart. While the law does not specify a certain shade of purple, a number of paint manufacturers offer a product called “No Hunting Purple.”

Previously, the only way landowners could post their properties was by posting signs that would deteriorate over time.

The law applies everywhere, except in Philadelphia city and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). If you plan on hunting this spring inside the cities of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, you are strongly advised to consult with the property owner in advance. However, I suspect that the only wild turkey you will find in those two municipalities comes in a bottle. 
Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

With Coronavirus having been confirmed in five U.S. states so far, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging citizens to learn more about the virus and how to protect yourself.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. They can make people and animals, such as camels, cats and bats, sick. These viruses, at times, can evolve and infect people, then spread through human to human contact, just like the flu or a cold.

Symptoms are also similar to flu or cold, including runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of not being well. The virus can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract infections as well.

To protect yourself and others, cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, do not use your hands; clean surfaces frequently, such as countertops, light switches, cell phones and other frequently touched areas; and contain the spread of any sickness by staying home until you are feeling better.

Learn more here.

Additionally, here is a fact sheet about coronavirus.
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