In this Update:
Gov. Wolf Sends General Assembly Budget Proposal with Huge Spending Increases
In an address to the General Assembly this week, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion 2022-23 state budget that would increase General Fund spending by $4.5 billion.
The new spending includes $2 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Including the expenditure of federal dollars returned to Pennsylvania during the pandemic, the governor’s budget represents a 10.9% increase in spending.
According to Senate Appropriations Committee budget projections, the governor’s plan will produce a $1.3 billion deficit for the 2023-24 fiscal year and create an even bigger bill for Pennsylvania taxpayers to pay long after the governor leaves office: a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
His plan is unrealistic financially, economically, and politically. The astronomical increases in proposed spending for the upcoming fiscal year are more than concerning. As I have the opportunity to speak with individuals across our region, I am reminded of the many families who strive to live within their means, and expect government to do the same. It would be foolish to overload this budget with new spending that cannot be sustained in coming years.
The Senate will hold a series of public hearings in the coming weeks to review the spending plan and begin conversations about a more responsible budget, that funds essential services, while shielding taxpayers from the consequences of reckless overspending.
You can read my full statement on the budget address here.
Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Three Bills
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a voting meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Each of the following three bills were unanimously passed by the Committee and now advance to the full Senate. For more information about the Judiciary Committee and to view legislative materials and video from previous meetings and hearings, visit: https://judiciary.pasenategop.com/.
Legislation Boosting Aid to First Responders Set for Enactment
Building on a promise to provide Pennsylvania’s frontline heroes with relief, the Senate approved legislation to provide $25 million in federal funding to support EMS providers.
Since January, the General Assembly has advanced measures totaling $250 million for frontline workers, health care providers, emergency services and EMTs. The passage of Senate Bill 739 builds on the General Assembly’s recent efforts to distribute $225 million in federal relief funds for hospital and behavioral health providers to retain and recruit staff.
The measure also would ensure that all fire companies – whether volunteer, paid or combination department – are eligible for the low-interest loans through the Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Loan Program. Voters approved expanding the program in a 2021 ballot question.
Updated Agritourism Guide Available to Farmers
Agritourism activities – like corn mazes, hayrides, on-site dining/retail operations and educational programs – are a growing part of Pennsylvania’s agriculture economy.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has an updated 128-page handbook to help farmers navigate agritourism issues.
Last year, the General Assembly approved a new law to better protect farmers who offer these kinds of agritourism activities.
Grants Available to Reduce Underage and Dangerous Drinking
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is accepting applications for grants to fund programs that discourage and reduce underage and dangerous drinking and promote a message of responsible alcohol consumption by those of legal drinking age.
Eligible grant applicants include school districts and institutions of higher education (including technical, trade and post-secondary establishments), community organizations, municipal police departments, municipal officials/representatives and nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
The deadline to apply for grants is March 18. Applications and guidelines for submission are available on the PLCB website.
Monday is National Donor Day
Monday isn’t just Valentine’s Day, it’s also National Donor Day. Many health groups use this day to sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups.
Organ donation saves lives and saves money, cutting health care costs by as much as two-thirds and saving Medicare millions of dollars every year.
The General Assembly passed the Living Donor Protection Act last year, prohibiting insurers from discriminating against an organ or tissue donor. It also ensures family and medical leave is provided for an eligible employee for the preparation and recovery necessary for donation surgery. In addition, it requires development of informational materials relating to living donors and the benefits of live organ and tissue donation.
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