In this Update:
Senate Concludes State Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed three weeks of public hearings about the proposed 2023-24 state budget with hearings for the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Department of Corrections (DOC)/Board of Probation & Parole, the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Department of General Services (DGS) and the state Budget Secretary.
Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a $45.8 billion budget that would increase spending by $1.3 billion and all but deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
During last week’s hearings:
That last question focuses on an issue with the most immediate impact on the commonwealth. As I indicated to the budget secretary, one of the first things we learned at the law enforcement academy was that before any government agent can take any action that has the force of law, the agent must affirmatively answer the question: “Do I have the authority to take this action?”
When I asked the secretary if the executive branch had the authority to enter into the RGGI compact, he said that is something that is before the court right now.
The problem with this is that should have been asked and solidly answered BEFORE the governor’s office took the action to enter us into this interstate compact. The fact they cannot or will not directly answer this question confirms my conviction that they lack the authority to enter into it and should immediately withdraw from the court case and RGGI!
The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2023-24 state budget.
You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at PASenateGOP.com.
Visit Your State Capitol
Things can get pretty hectic in Harrisburg. I always make every effort to meet with District 25 residents when they visit our beautiful state Capitol.
Last week, I had the privilege of welcoming students and staff from Corl Street Elementary School (Centre) on Wednesday and Brookville Area High School (Jefferson) on Thursday.
These events provide me the opportunity to share insight into our small-r republican form of government and the history of our commonwealth and state Capitol. It is also so uplifting when I see the open mouths and gasps of amazement of the younger students when they see the grandeur of our Capitol. It serves as a great reminder of the solemn nature of the jobs we hold in state government.
‘My St. Marys App’ Brings Home Local Government Excellence Award
Last week, I had the privilege of presenting City of St. Marys (Elk) officials with an official Senate citation in recognition of earning the 2023 Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence in the Information Technology category.
With the increase of mobile phone usage, the city successfully launched the “My St. Marys” app to allow residents to receive a wide variety of services and notifications from the city—all from the convenience of one location on their phone.
Thanks to the “Report an Issue” feature, the city can track requests and collect data on response times, locations and the types of issues being reported. This revolutionary feature has become a key influence in making critical decisions about the deployment of city resources.
‘Four Wheelin’ Permits on Sale Now
It took a lot of work on the part of stakeholders throughout north central Pennsylvania to make it happen, but now the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is issuing permits to individuals who are interested in participating in the department’s ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot program.
Interested applicants will need to receive a permit to ride on the designated roads which costs $40 for a Commonwealth-registered ATV and $60 for out-of-state-registered ATVs.
Permits are available for in-person sales only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Tiadaghton, Sproul and Susquehannock state forest district offices.
The location of the pilot program will primarily be in Potter and Tioga counties, and portions of Clinton and Lycoming counties. Click here for a digital map of the trail routes.
$28 Million in Transportation Alternatives Funding Coming Summer 2023
The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission has confirmed a new round of Transportation Alternatives (TA) Set-Aside program funding is anticipated to open this summer.
Interested applicants are encouraged to begin their planning, design and public involvement efforts as soon as possible. Approximately $28 million is expected to be available statewide!
The TA Set-Aside program provides funds to construct pedestrian and bicycle facilities; improve access to public transportation; create safe routes to school; incorporate community improvements such as historic preservation and vegetation management; provide environmental mitigation related to stormwater and habitat connectivity; create trail projects that serve a transportation purpose, while promoting safety and mobility; and provide for vulnerable road user safety assessments.
There is a minimum award of $50,000 for TA Set-Aside construction projects. Projects are funded at 100% of the construction cost (including construction inspection) up to the amount awarded. The maximum award is $1.5 million, although higher awards can be justified on a case-by-case basis for “exceptional” projects.
More details on the TA Set-Aside program can be found here.
Monthly Appropriations Update Shows Lagging Sales Tax Collections
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that Sales and Use Tax (SUT) collections were $25 million, or 2.3%, below estimate for the month. Perhaps more importantly, March’s SUT collections were below March 2022’s collections.
SUT is the second-largest source of revenue for the General Fund and is mostly due on a “pay-as-you-go” basis throughout the year. Closely monitoring these collections for continued weakness could help signify any potential slowing of the economy.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
Safely Dispose of Unused Prescriptions on April 22
Conveniently remove opioids and other unused medicines from your home on Saturday, April 22, as part of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
More than 13 tons of prescription drugs were disposed of across Pennsylvania in the Prescription Drug Take Back Day held last October.
Find a location to safely dispose of unused drugs here.
Farmers, Help PA Claim Federal Funding
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is collecting responses for the 2022 Census of Agriculture, which impacts funding priorities for numerous programs. Any farmers who have not returned their questionnaires are encouraged to respond by mail or online here.
In addition to directing the use of tax dollars, the census data also informs decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education and more.
State Grant Deadline is May 1 for PA College Students
The deadline for students and families to submit their applications for the 2023-24 Pennsylvania State Grant program is May 1. This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in a degree program or other college or university (excluding community colleges).
To apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access the FAFSA online at www.PHEAA.org/FAFSA or www.fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.
Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 800-692-7392 for personal assistance.
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