In this Update:
Senate Approves Critical Budget Implementation Bills
The Senate advanced two bills to implement key parts of the 2023-24 budget and drive out funding to schools, hospitals, EMS providers, higher education, and more.
The fiscal code bills take an important step to further finalize portions of the state budget which require implementation language. The critical support authorized by the legislation cannot be finalized until the House of Representatives also returns to session.
House Bill 1300 reauthorizes assessments and payments to hospitals, boosts reimbursement rates for EMS providers, and reauthorizes judicial fees that courts rely on for funding. These budget items are important and time-sensitive.
In addition, the bill directs funding to many non-controversial and bipartisan budget items related to education, including:
The Senate also voted to advance Senate Bill 757, which addresses other priorities included in the original budget deal Senate Republicans negotiated with Gov. Josh Shapiro in June.
This includes the creation of the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program to provide additional educational options for students in failing schools, as well as $150 million in new funding for the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to expand educational opportunities to families throughout the state.
Wayne County Park Making Progress on Expansion Plans
Phase I of the Damascus Recreation Park expansion is complete! This community asset is a destination for students, families and residents of all ages to enjoy the benefits of these outdoor resources. Phase II improvements include enhancements to the baseball field and walking trails.
Committee Advances Bill to Move Up 2024 Primary Election
Bipartisan legislation to give Pennsylvanians greater say in the 2024 presidential election by moving up the primary election date was approved by a Senate committee this week. The bill advances to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate State Government Committee passed Senate Bill 224 to move up the primary election by five weeks to March 19, 2024. This change will likely place the Pennsylvania primary election on the same day as Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
In many presidential elections, the outcome is largely decided before Pennsylvania voters have a chance to cast a ballot. Moving up the spring election date gives voters in the fifth-largest state a better chance of weighing in on the presidential primary.
New CDL Skills Test Intended to Attract More School Bus Drivers
Beginning Monday, Aug. 28, a modernized commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test will be implemented at all Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver license centers that offer CDL skills tests and at all third party CDL driving skill testers.
Applicants who will take the test after Aug. 28 are encouraged to review updated materials here.
As some schools are already back in session and others are scheduled to start soon, there is a pressing need to ensure the availability of school bus drivers. According to PennDOT, these measures will streamline the school bus endorsement process and hopefully attract new drivers – alleviating Pennsylvania’s school bus driver shortage.
Tax Collections Show Effectiveness of Reducing Taxes
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that total General Fund revenues were $185.3 million, or 6.9%, higher than last year at this time. Corporate Net Income Tax (CNIT) collections were $31.3 million, or 20.8%, higher than July 2022 collections.
The increased collections demonstrate the effectiveness of reducing Pennsylvania’s CNIT rate, which started with the 2022-23 state budget. This year’s budget continues the phase-down of our CNIT rate, which will take Pennsylvania from one of the highest tax rates in the country to one of the lowest.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
State Police Remove College Credit Requirement for Cadets
Pennsylvania State Police are removing the college credit requirement for residents who want to serve as state troopers.
The previous educational requirement of 60 college credits has been in place since the 1990s. Under the change, cadet applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate and a valid driver’s license from any state. Cadets also undergo 28 weeks of comprehensive training.
The number of state police applicants has dropped significantly in recent years. Waiving the college degree requirement on a trial basis for this next period of cadet applications is aimed at helping the PSP attract and retain talent. The change will be re-evaluated pending the results of multiple application cycles.
The 2023-24 state budget includes funding for four new state police cadet classes to train 384 new troopers. For information on becoming a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, visit patrooper.com.
Avoid Holiday Traffic With 511PA
You can log onto www.511pa.com to check current traffic impacts from construction, traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to live traffic cameras across Pennsylvania. The service is free and available 24 hours a day.
511PA is also available through a smartphone app, by calling 5-1-1 or by following regional Twitter (X) alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
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 website.
Happy Labor Day
I hope you have a great holiday weekend and relaxing Labor Day.
I’m working with my colleagues to improve opportunities for workers and the families they support. Too many Pennsylvania citizens are fleeing the state for better jobs in other parts of the country.
To reverse this troubling trend, the budget bill passed by the Senate and signed into law continues to improve our tax structure to create jobs, prioritize workforce development and support career and technical education. I’ll keep you updated on our efforts throughout the year.
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