|House Balances Budget without Hiking Taxes
The state House this week approved and I voted for a bill that would balance the state budget without raising taxes on Pennsylvania families.
The Commonwealth developed a $1.5 billion deficit in the 2016-17 state budget that ended June 30. It also is projecting a deficit of approximately $600 million for the current budget year that began July 1.
The largest part of the House plan to fill that approximately $2.1 billion hole is a proposal that would bring in a one-time, $1 billion payment to the state and, in exchange, the purchaser would receive a portion of the Tobacco Settlement Funds received by the Commonwealth for up to 10 years.
The House plan also would reallocate $630 million in existing state revenues that were previously allotted for various projects and programs, but have not been spent.
The plan also projects $225 million in additional revenues will be available through proposed reforms to Pennsylvania’s gaming law and $50 million will be available if the Senate and governor work with the House to further reform Pennsylvania’s liquor sales system.
The House revenue package also includes several hundreds of millions of dollars more in intergovernmental transfers.
The House revenue plan – House Bill 453 – now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
Legislators and Boy Scouts Rally at Capitol
My legislative colleagues and I who are part of the newly formed state House Boy Scout Caucus held a rally this week in the state Capitol.
Boy Scouts from different areas in Pennsylvania traveled to the Capitol to participate in this event.
The House Boy Scout Caucus was formed to support the important work performed by the Boy Scouts and also so that members of the caucus can provide information to other lawmakers about the value of the Boy Scouts and its programs.
According to one of the speakers at the rally – which you can watch here – the earliest Boy Scout troop in the United States of America was formed just outside of Philadelphia.
I have participated in the Boy Scouts for years and have seen the way it can positively affect young men. I will continue to support this organization, which performs important work in Pennsylvania and teaches young men skills and values that will help shape the rest of their lives.
Helping Our Veterans
Legislation to help veterans and their spouses by enhancing their eligibility for state programs and services passed the House this week.
House Bill 980 would exempt 100 percent of a veteran’s federal disability compensation or pension from income calculations for any state program or benefit, such as the PACE and PACENET prescription drug programs or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). (Under current law, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program already excludes this income.)
In addition, the legislation would extend the exclusion of the compensation benefits to the veteran’s unmarried surviving spouse.
The bill now goes to the state Senate.
Keeping Your Personal Info Safe
In light of recent news about a data breach at Equifax, a national credit-reporting agency, residents are encouraged to learn more about identity theft and how to protect their information from being used fraudulently.
It is unknown how many Pennsylvania consumers the breach has affected; however, the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General is leading a national investigation into the data breach.
In the meantime, consumers are urged to be proactive in monitoring their credit reports and financial account statements, such as credit cards and utilities, and in reporting any suspicious activity to the attorney general office’s hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Federal Trade Commission has also provided identitytheft.gov, an identity theft prevention website.
What Do You Think about Highway Safety?
Motorists are encouraged to submit their input on a number of highway issues, such as highway safety, traffic safety enforcement and driving behaviors, as part of PennDOT’s annual online survey.
The brief survey is available until Sept. 27, and focuses on seat belts, impaired driving, speeding, motorcycles and distracted driving. People completing the survey may remain anonymous, but are asked to provide their gender, age and county of residence.
Last year, 6,619 people responded to the survey. As a result of this feedback and recent trends in crash data, PennDOT has further increased its usage of social media to share highway safety information and is highlighting personal responsibility in future media campaigns.
To complete the survey, click here.