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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session Week
March 2, 2015

Dear Friend,

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 www.senatordonwhite.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Don White


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: http://www.pasenategop.com/state-budget/.

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 and employers.

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 www.pasenategop.com.

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 state taxes.

Click 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 service. 

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 employees’ paychecks. 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.

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