In this Update:
Budget Proposal Spending Increase Creates Concerns
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.
I’m concerned about the deficit spending approach in this state budget proposal.
Excessive spending in one budget year can plant the seeds for tax increases and harmful program cuts in future budgets. The level of spending contained in this proposal is unsustainable in the long term and threatens the financial security of our commonwealth.
I am committed to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to deliver a balanced, on-time, responsible state budget that funds the core functions of government without further burdening taxpayers.
My colleagues in the General Assembly and I will review the proposal and look for areas where we can cut costs and improve efficiency in order to maximize the effectiveness of taxpayer dollars.
I think there are areas where we can find common ground with the governor and others where we may have to agree to disagree. I am eager to participate in the Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings to review the proposal and dig into the details. The governor’s proposal is an opening offer in a negotiation process that will take place during the next several months.
In addition to making it extremely difficult to balance future budgets, the governor’s spending plan would completely eliminate the state’s current and future budgetary reserves in the next five years. Unrealistic spending and revenue projections mean the governor’s budget plan will likely require deep spending cuts and painful broad-based tax increases on Pennsylvanians.
The governor’s budget approach, which would likely result in higher inflation when families are already struggling, runs in opposition to the cautious and responsible budgets we have fought to enact. In the next several months, we will examine the 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.
Recognizing World Cancer Day
On World Cancer Day this week, we bowed our heads in remembrance and solidarity for those facing the formidable battle against cancer. We reflected on the courage of warriors, the resilience of survivors, and the enduring spirit of those we’ve lost to this relentless adversary.
May this day serve as a solemn reminder of the profound impact of cancer on individuals, families and communities worldwide. Let us join hands in support, compassion, and empathy.
Celebrating National Boy Scouts Day
This week, with the celebration of National Boy Scouts Day, we celebrated the incredible impact of the Boy Scouts on the lives of young individuals across the nation. Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand the values of leadership, community service and outdoor skills instilled in these young minds and executed in their service to the community.
To all the scouts out there, your enthusiasm resilience, and commitment to making a positive difference inspire us all. We salute you and the incredible organization that continues to shape the leaders of tomorrow.
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.
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 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. It also encourages Gov. Josh Shapiro to join dozens of other governors from across the country who have announced their support of Abbott.
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.
2023 Accomplishments: Cutting Red Tape
As 2024 kicks off, Senate Republicans will continue our work to cut red tape and improve the experience citizens have when they interact with their government and the agencies intended to help them.
Already this session, we have passed a bill that would improve government efficiency by authorizing the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to return unclaimed property without requiring the owners to search for it. Another legislative measure would ensure Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Medical Assistance benefits are not spent on the deceased.
For the Pennsylvanians who must apply for a permit, license or certification, another bill would require state agencies to create an accessible website to explain why a permit application was rejected and enable permit applicants to check their application status. It would also deem a permit, license or certification approved if the agency reviewing the application misses its deadline – giving Pennsylvanians far more predictability than they currently have. This change would also help to attract more business to the state and boost our economy by addressing unreasonable permit delays.
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.
Protecting Against Hypothermia and Frostbite
While this winter has been relatively mild so far, colder weather could set in at any time. Brushing up on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite can help you keep yourself and others safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed information about warning signs and prevention.
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and confusion. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to death. If someone is experiencing hypothermia, give them warm water and replace any wet clothing with dry layers. Seek medical attention if their body temperature is below 95 degrees.
Frostbite is an injury that can permanently damage the body and typically impacts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. Symptoms include painful, unusually firm or waxy skin. If impacted, warm the affected area but do not apply pressure. Stay a safe distance from heat sources and know when to get medical care.
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