February 10, 2020
State Budget Update
On Tuesday, February 4th, Governor Tom Wolf presented his annual address to the General Assembly, in which he outlined his initial state budget proposal for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year. After listening to his speech and reviewing the related documents a bit further, I believe that there are some positive aspects and some negative aspects of his plan.
First and foremost, I am pleased that the Governor did not propose any broad-based tax increases. My colleagues and I have made this a priority over the past several years and our state is now thriving because of it.
I do, however, have some concerns with the Governor’s intent to raise overall state spending by approximately $1.5 billion, which includes the borrowing of funds in excess of $1 billion. It is my belief that our fiscally responsible approach over the last several years is why our state is in such strong economic standing at this point and why we should continue that approach moving forward.
I am also concerned that Governor Wolf has proposed a 75% reduction of funding for school safety grant funding and significant cuts to agricultural funding, as well. I will be working with my Senate Republican colleagues to fight for restoration of these critical line-items, while working to restrain overall spending to an appropriate, fiscally responsible level.
We now head into three weeks of budget hearings, where the Appropriations Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to question the leadership of all state agencies on issues related to the funding of those entities. This will provide useful information, as we then move into the budget negotiation portion of the process.
I was pleased to recently attend a press conference with Senators John Yudichak and Lisa Baker and Representative Toohil to announce the Municipal Recovery and Reinvestment Act legislation.
Tele Town Hall Poll Results
On January 22nd, I held my latest Tele Town Hall. Thousands of residents from across the 27th Senatorial District participated. There were many excellent questions across a broad spectrum of issues posed by the audience and I was very encouraged by the conversation.
One of my favorite parts of the Tele Town Hall is the opportunity for me to pose a series of poll questions, which allows me to get a feel for how you, the people that I represent, feel on those issues. Here are the results of the latest poll questions:
Question 1: Unauthorized and unregulated video gaming machines have greatly increased across our state. Courts have ruled that these games of skill are not “gambling devices” under the law and, therefore, are not illegal. Recently, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman has indicated that he will be introducing legislation to regulate and tax these machines. The Attorney General of Pennsylvania has advocated for these machines to be outlawed, because he feels that they are gambling devices that do nothing but negatively impact Lottery Fund revenues. Which position do you favor?
Support Regulation and Taxation of these machines: 35%
These are gambling machines and should be banned: 42%
No opinion: 23%
Question 2: The PA Senate recently passed a bill that will incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage for the first time since 2007. The bill would increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.00 an hour on July 1, 2020 and by $0.50 increments every 6 months, reaching $9.50 an hour in January of 2022. Do you believe that this bill should become law?
Agree with the bill: 48%
Disagree with the bill because it is too much of an increase: 29%
Disagree with the bill because it is not enough of an increase: 19%
No opinion: 4%
Question 3: The Governor, through executive order, decided by himself that Pennsylvania should join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with a number of other states. Some believe this move could be beneficial for the environment in reducing greenhouse gasses. Others argued that the Governor did not have the authority to join RGGI without the consent of the General Assembly and that his action would dramatically increase electric bills for everyone and would bankrupt the state’s coal refuse industry. Do you support the Governor’s executive order to mandate that PA join RGGI?
Support the Governor’s Executive Order to join RGGI: 16%
Oppose the Governor’s Executive Order: 76%
No opinion: 9%
Question 4: There is currently a bill in the PA House of Representatives that would abolish Daylight Savings Time in Pennsylvania. If made law, Pennsylvania would be the third state in the country to get rid of Daylight Savings Time (the other two being Hawaii and Arizona). Do you support eliminating Daylight Savings Time in Pennsylvania?
Support elimination of Daylight Savings Time in PA: 55%
Oppose elimination of Daylight Savings Time in PA: 39%
No opinion: 6%
I anticipate that my next Tele Town Hall will be held sometime in May. Stay tuned for details!
Two Pieces of Cancer Legislation Advanced By Senate
Last week, the Senate passed two pieces of legislation that are aimed at ensuring health coverage for cancer treatments.
Senate Bill 595, sponsored by Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), would require health insurance policies to provide coverage for diagnostic breast imaging for women believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to any of several factors. The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
House Bill 427, sponsored by Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-171), would prohibit health insurance policies that cover stage four cancer treatments from making certain requirements before providing coverage for that illness. The bill was passed unanimously in both chambers and is now before Governor Tom Wolf for his signature.
Presidential Primaries Legislation Passed By Senate
In a previous E-newsletter, I described legislation that I had introduced that would move up the date of Primary Elections in years in which the office of the President of the United States is on the ballot. As you know, our citizens usually do not have a say in the selection of each party’s candidate, as the outcome has largely been decided by the time our Primary Election rolls around in late April. Moving that election, only in Presidential Primaries, to the 3rd Tuesday in March would make our state and our voters more relevant in the process.
I am pleased to inform you that Senate Bill 779 was passed unanimously by the Senate. It now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
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