In this Update:
Spending Increase in Shapiro’s Budget Creates Concern
This week, Gov. Josh Shapiro shared his proposed 2024-25 state budget, which includes a $3.2 billion increase – a jump of 7.1% – in state spending.
Governor Shapiro has offered an ambitious state budget with a 7 percent increase in spending. While any plan draws mixed reviews, this one will warrant even greater analysis than usual because of the long-range implications of his proposals.
The overall challenge is how to institute large reforms without crushing taxpayers today or putting too big a mortgage on tomorrow. Any multi-year commitment to sizable spending increases launched this year increases the prospect for pressure on taxes or program reductions in coming years.
Putting more money into the Rainy Day Fund this year only to drain it in subsequent years for non-emergency spending seems an odd and contradictory way to proceed.
Increasing funding for mass transit is always a difficult ask because of the backlog of infrastructure improvements statewide. Transportation improvement packages are generally built around every mode of transportation, and there will be pressure in that direction this year as well. If more sales tax revenue is dedicated to mass transit, the money is being diverted from other purposes, and that promises to be a matter of contention.
With the demographic and financing challenges facing higher education, there is a need to restructure the operation of publicly funded state universities and community colleges. The governor has opened the door to a serious conversation about how these institutions compete for students and strengthen their program offerings, but the details are lacking, it is unclear what the impacts will be for Luzerne County Community College.
In the next several months, Senate Republicans will examine Shapiro’s budget proposal and search for greater efficiencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its series of budget hearings to study the budget proposal on Feb. 20.
Senate Hearing on Office of Administration Data Loss
This week, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on the recent Shapiro Office of Administration (OA) server data loss.
According to the OA, human error from an employee performing server maintenance on Jan. 3 resulted in data loss affecting several agencies. Additional information requested at the hearing will be reviewed once received by the committees. Video of the hearing can be found here.
Senate Passes Measure Supporting a More Secure Southern Border
As the unprecedented rise in illegal immigration strains the resources of states throughout the nation, the Senate approved a measure calling for action to address the border crisis and support the rights of states to protect their citizens.
Senate Resolution 234 voices support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s actions to secure the border amid federal inaction by the Biden Administration. It also encourages Gov. Josh Shapiro to join dozens of other governors from across the country who have announced their support of Abbott. The Biden Administration continues to fight Abbott’s lawful exercise of his Constitutional authority to defend his state and its citizens.
According to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, the country’s illegal immigrant population grew to 12.8 million by October 2023. It rose 2.6 million since January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office and used executive orders to move financial resources away from the border, suspend deportations and end the successful “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Property Tax Relief is Available for Homeowners
Most homes and farms are eligible for property tax reduction under the Homestead Tax Exemption program.
Under a homestead or farmstead property tax exclusion, the assessed value of each homestead or farmstead is reduced by the same amount before the property tax is computed.
To receive school property tax relief for tax years beginning July 1 or Jan. 1, an application for homestead or farmstead exclusions must be filed by the preceding March 1. School districts are required to notify homeowners by Dec. 31 of each year if their property is not approved for the homestead or farmstead exclusion or if their approval is due to expire. Learn more and find an application.
Public Comment Regarding PPL Settlement Open Now
In late 2022 and early 2023, PPL customers experienced unusually high or low estimated bills, missing monthly bills and inadequate customer service support resulting in customers’ inability to reach PPL Call Center representatives to discuss their billing concerns.
To address those issues, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will evaluate and consider a joint settlement. As part of the evaluation, a public comment period regarding the proposed settlement is active through Feb. 28.
Customers may submit a comment by e-filing through the PUC or sending a written comment at the address below. All comments should reference the docket number of the case: M-2023-3038060.
America250PA Announces Second Bell at Hawley Silk Mill
I was pleased to join America250PA in announcing that its next Semiquincentennial Bell will be dedicated later this fall, in partnership with Settlers Hospitality, at the Hawley Silk Mill in Wayne County.
Ever since the famed Liberty bell was rung to celebrate American independence, it has been a symbol of enduring freedom. America250PA selected well in designating the bell as the instrument for honoring our prized assets. A structure such as the Hawley Silk Mill is a perfect place to keep the stories and spirit of progress alive as a vital piece of our history. We hope that all who travel by will take time to learn and reflect on how it shaped America.
February is American Heart Month
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