Sep. 01, 2017

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol

Budget Update

I am a member of the Budget Hawks Committee that is attempting to reconcile the budget without any tax hikes. I have been working through the summer on this since the House went to a recess in early July.

These are some of the myth versus facts that you should be aware of.

Five Facts about Pennsylvania’s Shadow Budget
                                   
1. Pennsylvania’s shadow budget contains more than 150 special funds and accounts for about 60 percent of state government's cost.

These state funds currently have a surplus of about $11 billion in their checking and savings accounts. Lawmakers should utilize these unreasonable surpluses to balance the budget—paying off last year’s budget deficit—before raising taxes on working families.
2. Drawing down on the state’s fund balances is an appropriate solution to the temporary problem of $1.5 billion in unpaid bills from last fiscal year.
This one-time transfer represents just 13 percent of the $11 billion balance sitting in the Treasury’s investment pools.
The state should not rely on fund transfers to pay for current and future spending. For this fiscal year, lawmakers should prioritize future spending in the shadow budget and permanently redirect new, recurring tax revenue to the General Fund.
If lawmakers combine shadow budget reforms with liquor privatization, welfare reform, and gambling expansion, they can balance the budget without tax hikes.
3. Utilizing excessive fund balances is not a form of borrowing.
Transferring a portion of surplus funds from the shadow budget would not require interest payments, and lawmakers do not need to replenish these fund balances. The only plan that requires interest payments is the proposal to borrow up to $1.3 billion from future Tobacco Settlement Fund revenue—which would require about $2.1 billion in repayment over 30 years, and $75 million in costs for bond lawyers.
4. Tax hikes are not a solution.
Four tax hikes in eight years failed to solve the state's structural budget challenges. Credit agency warnings have expressed concern over Pennsylvania’s slow economic growth, a problem that higher taxes would worsen.
5. Many of the special funds inside the shadow budget are paid for with tax dollars, not user fees or premium payments.
For example, the Public Transportation Trust Fund is funded by turnpike tolls (charged to drivers who choose not to use mass transit) and sales taxes. Likewise, the Race Horse Development Fund is financed predominantly by slot machine gamblers. And the Keystone Park, Recreation and Conservation Fund is financed by the Realty Transfer Tax.
 

Helping Victims of Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts and prayers of all Pennsylvanians are with the people in the Houston area who are suffering and homeless in the wake of this devastating storm.
When our fellow Americans need help, Pennsylvanians are always there to answer the call. Pennsylvania's Taskforce 1 has been called up to assist in the recovery effort throughout Hurricane Harvey.
If you would like to also help, here are some efforts underway offering assistance to victims.

The American Red Cross
Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response team
Houston Food Bank
Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
SPCA Of Texas
Airbnb
Go Fund Me
Portlight

Thanks for helping.
 

Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit Program Ends in One Year

Eligible veterans who served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations from Aug. 2, 1990 to Aug. 31, 1991 have exactly one year from today to collect a special one-time payment to honor their service and sacrifice.
Applications for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Bonus are due by Aug. 31, 2018.

The bonus program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For personnel whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm, there is an additional $5,000 available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war may also be eligible for an additional $5,000.

To be eligible for the bonus, a service member must have:
• Served with the U.S. Armed Forces, a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Pennsylvania National Guard
• Served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations during the period from Aug. 2, 1990 to Aug. 31, 1991
• Received the Southwest Asia Service Medal
• Been a legal resident of Pennsylvania at the time of active duty service
• Been discharged from active duty under honorable conditions, if not currently on active duty
                                   
For detailed instructions on how to apply, visit persiangulfbonus.pa.gov.
 

New Law Gets Tough on Animal Abusers
Animals now have greater protection thanks to a tough, new law targeting those who abuse animals which took effect Monday, Aug. 28.

Act 10 of 2017, also known as Libre’s Law, strengthens existing animal cruelty laws and makes it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal.

Specifically, the new law outlines three tiers of cruelty and neglect, with charges ranging from a summary offense for denying an animal food or shelter to a third-degree felony for intentionally torturing an animal or causing serious bodily injury or death.

The new law also requires convicted animal abusers to forfeit their animals, sets limits on how long an animal can be tethered outdoors, and clarifies penalties for abusing a horse.


 


Prepare Yourself for Emergencies
As the nation comes together to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Pennsylvania officials are reminding residents that National Preparedness Month begins Sept. 1. Throughout the month, households, businesses and communities are encouraged to prepare and plan for emergencies.

Well before emergencies strike, simple steps can be taken to prepare a family, school, workplace or community for any type of incident that would disrupt the day-to-day routine. Citizens are encouraged to visit ReadyPA.org to find sample checklists, contact lists and other preparedness tools to take advantage of before an emergency occurs. In particular, people should think about loved ones who may have special needs that could inhibit their ability to help themselves.

Follow @ReadyPA on Twitter and like facebook.com/BeReadyPA for additional helpful tips and information.
 

Hunter-Trapper Education Boosts Safety
Interested in hunting or trapping in Penn’s Woods? By law, all first-time hunters and trappers, regardless of age, must successfully complete Hunter-Trapper Education (HTE) training before they can buy a Pennsylvania hunting or trapping license.

A training certificate, which is recognized throughout North America, is awarded when the individual passes the test at the end of the course. Individuals must be at least 11 years old to enroll in a class. The training is designed to produce safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved participants. Due to hunter education, hunting is safe and getting safer.

Two options are available to complete the course -- in a classroom or entirely online (for those who are 16 years of age or older). Click here to learn more about HTE and view other training programs available.
 

Traveling Over Labor Day? Check Traffic Conditions on 511PA.com
Travelers can log onto 511PA.com to check current traffic impacts from construction, traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 770 traffic cameras. The service is free and available 24 hours a day.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

Travelers are always reminded to buckle up, put their phones away and stay sober when behind the wheel.

In other PennDOT news, driver license and photo centers will be closed Saturday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 4, for Labor Day. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, dmv.pa.gov.
 

PHEAA Encourages Caution with Solicitations
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) reminds students and families to be extremely cautious if solicited by any company offering financial aid application assistance, scholarship searches or student loan debt relief, such as through loan consolidation, loan cancellation, loan forgiveness or defaulted loan assistance. These companies typically charge significant upfront fees for services – sometimes through non-existent programs – that are readily available for free from the federal government.

To find financial aid opportunities, parents and students should research FREE sites such as EducationPlanner.org, MySmartBorrowing.org, StudentAid.ed.gov and StudentLoans.gov. In addition, NerdWallet’s Watch List names companies that charge for fraudulent or questionable debt relief services.

Students and families who believe they have been targeted or victimized by a scam should complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
 
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1044 East Main Street, Palmyra, PA 17078 | Phone: (717)838-3823
149A East Wing, PO Box 202101 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2101 | (717) 783-1815
Email Address: FRyan@pahousegop.com
 
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