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Special Report: 2018-19 Budget Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee held its third week of public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed state budget for the 2018-19 Fiscal Year. The Appropriations Committee heard detailed reports from several cabinet secretaries and other officials on March 5 and 6. This special edition of Harrisburg Happenings provides day-by-day highlights from those hearings.

More information on the budget, as well as photos, audio and video from the hearings, is available at: www.pasenategop.com/state-budget/.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fielded questions on how expanded gaming opportunities will impact the state and how they will be regulated.  Other questions centered on:

  • New jobs created by new “mini casino” licenses and expanded gaming.
  • The impact of pension costs on the board’s budget.
  • The implementation of Video Gaming Terminals at truck stops.
  • Ensuring proper surveillance and security of VGTs.
  • Gaming options at airports.
  • Efforts to support horse racing facilities.
  • The amount of slot machine revenue going toward property tax relief.
  • The impact of casinos on local economic development.
  • Help for gambling addictions and efforts to crack down on underage gambling.
  • The use of State Police at casinos.
  • Slot machine revenues versus table game revenues.

Video of the hearing.

Department of Revenue/Lottery

Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell fielded questions regarding tax collections, revenue trends and new lottery initiatives. Other topics of discussion included:

  • Spending for IT modernization.
  • Efforts to increase efficiency.
  • The impact of gaming expansion on lottery sales.
  • Legal issues regarding medical cannabis.
  • Spending for lottery advertising.
  • The projected impact of the Governor’s proposed Marcellus Shale extraction tax.
  • Anticipated revenues from internet lottery sales.
  • Efforts to prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Impact fee revenues.
  • Electronic income tax filing.

Video of the hearing.

Department of Community & Economic Development

Representatives of the Department of Community and Economic Development answered questions related to Pennsylvania’s business climate. Topics of conversation included:

  • Efforts to secure the new Amazon headquarters.
  • Additional funding for the PA First program.
  • Efforts to support Third Class cities.
  • The Governor’s proposed cut to the Marketing to Attract Tourists program.
  • Measuring the success of economic development programs.
  • Implementation of the Federal Opportunity Zones Program.
  • The impact of tax and regulatory proposals on economic development.
  • Availability of adult career and technical education programs.
  • Trade union involvement in job training programs.
  • International trade.
  • An update on the ethane cracker plant.
  • Governor Wolf’s refusal to allow new CRIZ applications.

Video of the hearing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Department of Education

The Appropriations Committee questioned Secretary Pedro Rivera about ways to ensure the massive state education budget is being spent efficiently and effectively. Topics covered include:

  • The difficulty in finding school performance scores online.
  • Delays in cyber-charter school renewals.
  • A lawsuit seeking more spending for school districts.
  • The financial unsustainability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
  • Shortcomings of the current Keystone Exam system.
  • The lack of Administration assistance in finding an alternative to school property taxes.
  • Standards for efficient, effective spending of state funding for school safety.
  • Allowing community colleges to use state funding for operational expenses.
  • Advantages of all-day vocational education.
  • Helping students prepare for technical careers.
  • Senate-passed legislation allowing school districts to train staff to arm themselves to boost school safety.
  • Lack of measurements to justify massive new spending levels.
  • A pending report on agriculture education.
  • Disbursement of state PLANCON funds for school construction.
  • The challenge of improving academically distressed school districts.
  • The method of reporting school bullying data.
  • The Keystone Exam graduation requirement.
  • Problems caused by level state support for school transportation.
  • The need for security risk assessments.
  • Per-student funding.
  • The need to reform the charter school funding formula.

Video of the hearing.

Department of Aging

Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne discussed the challenges Pennsylvania is facing in meeting the needs of a growing aging population including:

  • Outreach programs for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Projections for the state’s senior population.
  • Programs that impact senior citizens.
  • The Lottery and the programs it funds.
  • The role of Area Agencies on Aging in providing long-term care.
  • Seniors selling prescribed opioids to pay for other medications.
  • Adjustments to the PACE reimbursement program.

Video of the hearing.

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