In this Update:
Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget: Week Two
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
Among the highlights:
At the hearing for the Attorney General’s Office, committee members discussed concerns with state government’s cyber security infrastructure. Last year, a data breach involving a Department of Health contractor exposed tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians’ personal information to hackers. The hearing also covered the latest stats from the Safe2Say Something anonymous threat reporting system for schools, as well as Philadelphia’s skyrocketing homicide rate.
At the hearing for the Department of Community and Economic Development, members stressed the need to improve Pennsylvania’s economic standing, noting that the current Corporate Net Income Tax rate has prevented many businesses from relocating and investing in Pennsylvania.
You can find information on other budget hearings, hearing video, livestreams and more at PASenateGOP.com.
Pennsylvania Acts to Support Ukraine
Pennsylvania has the second-largest population of Ukrainian Americans in the nation, with more than 122,000. Pennsylvania government is planning several responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in order to deny funds to Russia and show solidarity with Ukrainians.
Treasurer Stacy Garrity said the Treasury had started to divest its holdings in Russian-based companies. The Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System is gathering details about its exposure to Russian-related investments and could divest in a few weeks.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is reviewing its inventory and is expected to stop selling vodka made in Russia.
To keep Russia in check in the long term, we must reassert America’s energy independence. Increasing domestic energy production and exports to European countries will go a long way toward reducing Russian influence and denying the regime the funds it needs to make war.
Assistance for Home Septic Repairs, Sewer Hook-ups
Low-interest loans are available to eligible Pennsylvania homeowners who need to repair or replace their on-lot septic system or connect to a public sewer.
The assistance can help homeowners avoid or respond to municipal citations and improve the environmental health of their property. Loan terms are up to 20 years (up to 15 years for manufactured homes). There is no prepayment penalty if the loan is paid off early. The maximum loan amount is $25,000.
The program is administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. You can find more information and terms here.
Multimodal Transportation Fund Grant Applications Now Being Accepted
Applications are now being accepted for grants from Pennsylvania’s Multimodal Transportation Fund, with applications due by July 31.
All applications and all required supplemental information must be electronically submitted by close of business on July 31 for expected consideration during the November Commonwealth Financing Authority board meeting.
Grants from the Multimodal Transportation Fund are available for projects with a total cost of $100,000 or more – grants cannot exceed $3 million for any project – and can be used to enhance transportation options for existing communities, streetscapes, lighting, sidewalks, pedestrian safety, and transit-oriented development.
Those eligible for the grants include municipalities, councils of governments, businesses, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, ports and rail/freight.
Local PA Governments to Receive $456 million in Liquid Fuels Payments for Transportation Needs
Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced $455.9 million in liquid fuels payments will be made available this year to help certified municipalities maintain their roads and bridges.
There are 120,596 miles of public roads in Pennsylvania of which 73,141 miles are owned by roughly 2,560 municipalities and eligible for liquid fuels payments. Those same municipalities also manage more than 6,600 bridges longer than 20 feet.
The liquid fuels payments this year represent a 1% increase from last year.
Pennsylvania will also receive an additional $1.6 billion for bridge work with 15% committed to “off-system” local bridges.
Other sources of income for local municipalities include a $5 fee counties can assess for each vehicle registered to an address within the county, with those funds available to be used for locally-owned infrastructure. Twenty-seven counties have implemented this fee thus far, with $180.8 million collected and distributed to those counties between December 2015 and December 2021.
Local governments and other eligible entities may apply for low-interest loans from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank which helps fund and accelerate transportation projects as well as spur economic development.
Municipal Outreach Sessions to be Held on March 31 for the PennDOT Connects Program
Municipal officials interested in learning about the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Connects program will have an opportunity to participate in forums to be held on Thursday, March 31.
PennDOT Connects is intended to improve communities and transportation systems by ensuring that communication and collaboration with local officials happens early in PennDOT’s transportation project development process.
According to PennDOT, the March 31 session can help officials identify ways to ensure community issues are considered in transportation projects; potential funding sources for state and local transportation projects; and tools and resources available for community and transportation planning.
The session is for municipal elected officials, managers, secretaries, public works staff, roadmasters, road crew, etc., and will explain how Connects is implemented, and how communities can benefit from the Connects process. The interactive session will also provide information about community planning and transportation funding resources. The session will be led by PennDOT, in cooperation with the North Central Rural Planning Organization (RPO), the SEDA-COG Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and the Centre County MPO.
For PennDOT Engineering District 2-0, the session will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 70 PennDOT Drive in Clearfield, PA 16830; CLICK HERE for more information, including how to register. For PennDOT Engineering District 10-0, the session will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 2250 Oakland Avenue in Indiana, PA 15701; CLICK HERE for more information, including how to register.
PA ABLE Helps Families Save for Disability-Related Expenses
In 2016, the General Assembly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and created PA ABLE accounts that give individuals with qualified disabilities, their families and friends a tax-free way to save for disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits.
Administered by the Pennsylvania Treasury, the accounts allow people with disabilities and their families the opportunity to save up to $100,000, without affecting eligibility for important government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid. The withdrawals from the accounts for qualified expenses related to an individual’s disabilities are also considered exempt from federal and state taxes, and the accounts are not subject to Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax.
To learn more about how you might be able to save money with the program, the Pennsylvania Treasury is hosting free webinars, with the next one for individuals with disabilities, families and professionals scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 from 6-7 p.m.
Bradford YWCA to Add Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelter
With a $19,000 grant, the Bradford YWCA in McKean County will create a separate domestic violence shelter building to house pets so that their owners can be close and care for them, all while accommodating domestic violence survivors who may be allergic to dogs or cats.
The grant – one of five awarded nationally this year – comes from the Purple Leash Project, a joint venture between pet food company Purina and RedRover, an organization focused on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals through emergency sheltering, disaster-relief services, financial assistance and education.
According to a Feb. 21 article in The Bradford Era, the Bradford YWCA at one time had two shelters, with one being pet friendly, but when the two shelters were combined, survivors were unable to bring their pets. The hope is this will encourage survivors to go to the shelter without fear of leaving their pet behind where the abuser could threaten it with harm, and at the same time help them better acclimate to their new environment with the help of their pets.
This grant will ensure both survivors and their pets are kept safe from abuse while allowing them to heal together.
Disabled Veteran Real Estate Tax Exemption
Pennsylvania veterans with a financial need who served during a period of war and are 100% disabled could benefit from a state real estate tax exemption program.
An applicant whose gross annual income exceeds $95,279 will be considered to have a financial need for the exemption if allowable expenses exceed household income. You can find details about eligibility here.
Contact your local County Veterans Affairs Director to apply for this program.
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