A Report on the Legislative Session Week
March 2, 2015
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This
e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week
of March 2, 2015.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website
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Senate to Review Governor’s FY 2015-16 Budget
Beginning with Governor Tom Wolf’s budget address on Tuesday, the
Senate begins the extensive process leading to the finalization of a state
budget for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, which runs from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.
During a joint session of the General Assembly, the Governor
unveiled his $33.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16, which includes a $4.7
billion (16.1 percent) increase in state spending. It also includes tax
increases totaling $4.7 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. Detailed
information about the budget is available at:
I am very disappointed the Governor is so eager to increase the tax burden
on Pennsylvania’s working families. His proposal includes major tax hikes that
would have a negative impact across my district and it is especially problematic
that he has targeted the development of natural gas in particular.
Natural gas development has become a major economic driver for the state
and especially the communities across western and central Pennsylvania. For all
the wonderful programs Governor Wolf wants to support, the benefits will be
offset by the increased cost families and employers will face to heat their
homes and businesses. Let’s face it, any tax on natural gas extraction will be
passed directly on to the consumer. This is a hidden tax on the middle class
While I have strongly supported efforts to reduce property taxes, the
Governor’s proposed ‘shift” raises several concerns. The bottom line is the
Governor’s tax increases would take money away from working families by
increasing both the income and sales taxes. Their take home pay would be cut and
they would pay more when they shop. Any discussion about reducing school
property taxes must also include cost containment. If the objective is to reduce
the property tax burden on home owners, there must be a check in place to ensure
those reductions remain in effect.
Taxpayers must be empowered by having the final say on future property tax
increases through a referendum that isn’t riddled with loopholes such as in
current law. Otherwise taxpayers will be exposed to increased taxes once the
‘shift’ occurs, while property taxes will again increase over time to the point
that we’re right back to where we started.
Secondly, the Governor’s plan would send more taxpayer money to
Harrisburg with no guarantee the funds will be distributed fairly and equitably
among the local school districts I represent. Sending billions more in taxpayer
funds to Harrisburg without assurances they will be redistributed fairly is not
a gamble I am willing to take.
Certainly, Senate Republicans will be taking a hard look at the Governor’s
proposal. The process will get underway as the Senate Appropriations Committee
holds three weeks of budget hearings beginning on March 16. The hearings
provide an opportunity for the Appropriations Committee to hear Administration
officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. Live coverage of the
hearings will be available online at
Senate Committees Hold Hearing Highlighting Natural Gas Impact Fee
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Senate
Local Government Committee held a joint public hearing on Tuesday to discuss the
benefits of the Act 13 Impact Fee on Pennsylvania communities.
The public hearing featured testimony from counties, townships,
conservation districts and economic development organizations throughout the
state. Act 13 of 2012 imposed an unconventional gas well fee which has provided
more than $630 million to local and county governments to compensate for impacts
of the industry, in addition to more than $2 billion companies have paid in
here for video of the hearing.
Bill Sets Penalties for False Claim of Veteran Status
The Senate passed a bill on Tuesday intended to protect the integrity of the
“veteran” driver’s license designation process. Under
Senate Bill 42 those who falsely claim to be a veteran on their Pennsylvania
driver’s license application would be subject to a summary offense with a $300
fine and possible imprisonment of between 30 and 90 days for those who fail to
pay the fine. A
state law enacted in 2012 allows veterans to self-certify their status
subject to verification by state military officials.
On Monday, the Senate approved
Senate Bill 130, a measure banning the practice of allowing persons
sentenced to community service to purchase gift cards in lieu of performing the
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“Paycheck Protection” Debate Continues
The Senate continued its deliberations and debate this week on a proposal to
stop the practice of the mandatory deduction of union dues from public sector
Senate Bill 500, a constitutional amendment, and
Senate Bill 501 are “Paycheck Protection” measures that would stop the
deduction by employers and instead have unions directly collect dues from their
members. I believe employees should have the freedom to determine on their own
how they choose to support public sector unions. I’m particularly interested in
advancing the constitutional amendment, since this method would allow for a
statewide referendum and ultimately give the people of Pennsylvania the final
say on the issue.