Senator Lisa Baker asked Secretary of Health Karen Murphy about the funding the EMS Operating Fund reductions and the challenges facing Emergency Medical Services and volunteer rates. The senator also raised concern over the zeroing out of the Primary Healthcare Practitioner Loan Repayment line item in the budget.
Sen. Lisa Baker asked Secretary Pedro Rivera to look into transportation reimbursements for rural pre-kindergarten programs. She also inquired as to how counseling services funds are distributed and what improvements are being made to ensure proper vocational education access for disabled students. The secretary, during questions from committee members, agreed that pension costs were the leading cost driver for school districts.
Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty was questioned by Sen. Baker about the financial hit families and businesses would take if a proposed retroactive 11 percent increase in the personal income tax and what efforts are being made to boost lottery revenues. In addition, the senator raised concerns about the impact continued talk of a severance tax has had on the natural gas industry.
During questioning on the Department of Human Services’ budget with Secretary Ted Dallas, Senator Lisa Baker expressed concerns about the governor’s vetoing of funding for critical access hospitals and urged funds to be released based the health, safety and public welfare of members of those hospitals’ communities. She also asked for details on how the governor’s executive order increasing the minimum wage for employees at companies with state contracts would impact annual state costs for the department and how many contractors are affected. She also raised concerns about the behavioral health specialist license and problems in attaining that license and the impact it’s having on mental health organizations.
Sen. Lisa Baker asked department officials for updates on the Gino Merli Center in Scranton and its provisional license status. She also asked for updates on the Veterans Trust Fund and its use. In addition she asked whether a bonus program for those men and women serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan warzones was being considered similar to the Persian Gulf Bonus program.
Sen. Lisa Baker asked Chancellor Frank T. Brogan about system operational costs, including pension obligations and health care increases. She also asked about how the schools are meeting the needs spelled out in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Representatives of Pennsylvania’s state-related universities – Temple, Pittsburgh, Lincoln and Penn State — answered questions from Sen. Lisa Baker regarding graduation and freshmen retention rates In addition she asked about initiatives to bolster workforce preparation and training and credentialing programs.
Secretary Russell Redding fielded questions from Senator Lisa Baker regarding ongoing constituent concerns regarding the uncertainty of funding for county fairs and cooperative extensions. She also urged him to have ongoing dialogue with Secretary Curt Topper from the Department of General Services about perhaps eliminating duplication of services and agreeing to use one weights and measurements lab between the two departments as a cost savings measure.
Secretary Teresa Osborne was asked by Sen. Lisa Baker to look into speeding up the approval process for the Aging Waiver program. Baker said from recent personal experience she has realized the process is too complicated and too lengthy, something the secretary agreed with.
Sen. Lisa Baker asked Department of General Services Secretary Curt Topper for updates on the security upgrades being made to the Capitol and wanted to know if duplicating services amongst some departments can be eliminated as a money-savings endeavor.