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As we move into the third month without a state budget, I want to update you on what has been taking place on that front. Legislative leaders continue to meet with Governor Wolf and his staff, but there has been little, if any progress. Basically, Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to the Governor’s massive broad-based tax increases and he has yet to concede an inch on that issue.
In an effort to move the process forward, legislative leaders recently offered a substantial increase in education funding on the condition that the Governor accept a modified public pension reform proposal. Even though pensions are the primary reason for increases in in school budgets – and property taxes – the Governor continues to support his special interest backers over the citizens of Pennsylvania and has rejected all efforts to reform the systems.
Unfortunately, the budget stalemate is taking its toll on school districts and vital social programs. As I noted last month, this situation would never have arisen had the Governor not taken the unprecedented step of vetoing the entire budget that the legislature sent him on June 30 -- even though more than two-thirds of the line items in that spending package were at or over the amounts he originally requested.
On August 25, House Republicans attempted to provide funding for rape crisis centers, domestic violence services, PHEAA grants, school transportation and other seemingly non-controversial and non-contested line items, but were thwarted by their Democratic colleagues. Had those measure moved out of the House, the Senate stood ready to immediately act to provide that financial relief to schools and service agencies.
Finally, I’d like to address two other baseless charges that have been leveled at the Legislature by special interest groups and editorial boards that support the Governor’s budget priorities.
First, is the chant that the Legislature must “act on the budget.”
We did – more than two months ago.
We sent the Governor a budget that, as has been noted, maintained or increased funding for more than two-thirds of the line items. We have yet to hear a counterproposal from the Governor beyond his March 3 wish list.
Second, those same groups are chanting the mantra that the Legislature should march lockstep behind the push for higher taxes and increased spending simply because the Governor received a mandate from the voters.
I don’t know if this “mandate” is clear, but from talking with people around the area I know it certainly wasn’t for the huge income tax hike and cradle-to-grave sales tax increases that he is proposing.
Legislators also receive a mandate from their constituents and those are the guidelines that direct my actions in Harrisburg.
The Administration would do well to remember that its constituency is all of the people of Pennsylvania and not just certain geographic areas and special interest groups.
Legislation Outlawing “Sanctuary Cities” Introduced
I'm cosponsoring legislation that will outlaw "Sanctuary Cities" in Pennsylvania, such as Philadelphia, which openly ignore federal immigration laws in regards to illegal immigrants.
State grants for law enforcement will be cut for any municipality breaking federal immigration laws and municipalities could be sued for negligence for releasing an illegal immigrant that subsequently committed another crime.
I believe there is nothing inhumane about enforcing immigration laws and upholding our national borders; both can be accomplished while still remaining compassionate for fellow humans fleeing war-torn, perpetually-impoverished countries. But I refuse to allow the use of state taxpayer dollars to subsidize cities that openly flout federal immigration laws.
Senate State Govt. & Finance Committee Joint Hearing
Recently, the Senate State Government & Finance Committees held a joint hearing on the legislature’s efforts to identify waste, fraud, and abuse in state government. Topics included zero-based and performance-based budgeting, budget analysis, and areas where other states have succeeded in slashing government expenditures.
Photo Contest Deadline is Sept. 1
This is the final reminder that the deadline to submit pictures for the 2016 “Scenes from the 47th Senatorial District” calendar contest is September 1. No submissions made after September 1 will be accepted. Voting will take place from September 2, 2015 to September 30, 2015. Winners will be announced in October.
Winning photos will be featured in the 2016 “Scenes from the 47th Senatorial
District Calendar.” To submit your photos or for more information, visit
www.senatoreldervogel.com/photo-contest/. No taxpayer money will be used for
the publication of the calendar and the calendars will be available to residents
free of charge.
Applications for Community Drug Abuse Prevention Grant Program Available
The application for the Office of Attorney General's Community Drug Abuse Prevention Grant Program is available online. Click here to access the application.
Applications are currently being accepted for the grant period that ends June 30, 2016.
The Community Drug Abuse Prevention Grant Program is offered to nonprofit and government agencies to facilitate education and outreach activities centered on drug abuse and prevention. Since 1987, the Office of Attorney General has awarded more than $1.7 million to organizations across Pennsylvania as part of this program.
The purpose of the Community Drug Abuse Prevention Grant Program is to bring an age-appropriate, innovative and fact-based educational program to students, parents and members of the community. The message is limited to the dangers and effects of the illegal use of prescription drugs, illegal street drugs, synthetic drugs and underage drinking.
Surplus State Heavy Equipment Set for Auction
The state Department of General Services recently announced the dates for its annual fall heavy equipment auctions for municipalities and the public.
The online auction for municipalities is now open and will close on September 9. The public online auction will begin on September 29 and close on October 7.
Seventy-five items up for bid in the State Surplus Property Program auction include dump trucks, tractors, skid steers, lifts, trenchers, loaders and more. The inventory is being staged at the Western Pennsylvania Training Facility, 38 Academy Lane, Cheswick, and can be viewed online at http://auctionsbygov.com/.
Municipalities interested in participating in the auction can register by contacting Clint Francis at (724) 630-6615 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals and businesses can register for the public auction online at www.Auctionsbygov.com.
Variety’s My Bike/My Stroller Program Looking for Participants
Variety the Children’s Charity, based in Wexford, needs your assistance in raising awareness and identifying children in our area that could benefit from their programs. The “My Bike” program provides adaptive bikes to children with disabilities so they can have the freedom & joy that comes from riding a bike. The “My Stroller” program provides adaptive strollers to kids with disabilities. If you know of anyone that could benefit from these great programs, please contact Variety the Children’s Charity at 724.933.0460 or visit their website at www.varietypittsburgh.org.
PennDOT Launches Website Detailing Road and Bridge Projects
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation this week launched a website highlighting information about active and upcoming construction projects through 2026.
The website, www.projects.pennDOT.gov, details past, present and future construction projects funded by Act 89, as well as projects that fall under the Four- and Twelve-Year Plans. Projects are searchable by county, PENNDOT Engineering District and statewide.
In addition to highway construction projects, the website details bridge and public transportation projects as well. Act 89, approved in 2013, provides funding for all modes of transportation, including improvements to 5,000 state-owned miles of roads and 600 bridges.
Know Your School Bus Safety Laws
Penalties for violating Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law include a $250
fine, five points on your driving record and a 60-day license suspension. The
start of the school year is a good time to brush up on PA school bus safety
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Senate Box 203047