I am pleased to present my electronic newsletter. These e-newsletters enable me to provide information about issues, events and activities in Harrisburg and around the 47th Senatorial District to you in a timely manner while saving postage costs.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatoreldervogel.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the page.
My Statement on 2016-17 Budget Proposal
I had hoped that Governor Wolf would put an end to the partisan divide in Harrisburg and propose a bold, fresh budget plan that could chart a path forward for Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, his 2016-17 budget proposal was more of the same—higher taxes and more government spending. I’m disappointed, to say the least.
Governor Wolf’s budget plan includes billions in additional government spending over the 2015-16 budget. During Governor Rendell’s tenure, the average annual spending increase was 4.1%. Governor Wolf is proposing a spending increase of 10% over our current budget. We’re talking about unprecedented increases in government spending that can only be paid for with tax increases.
The bulk of these tax increases ($3.6 billion total) will be paid for by working Pennsylvanians through a roughly 11% hike in the Personal Income Tax. Other tax increases include an expansion of the Sales Tax to include new items and services including basic cable television and movie theater tickets as well as a tax on fire, property and casualty insurance. The people of Pennsylvania already pay a lot in taxes.
Astoundingly, Governor Wolf wants the Personal Income Tax to be retroactive to January 1, 2016, meaning that taxpayers will owe an extra 6 months in back tax payments if the budget is enacted on June 30!
The governor claimed in his budget address that there are only two paths we can follow – one with massive tax increases and higher spending, and another with draconian cuts to schools and social services. The people of Pennsylvania are too smart to fall for this false choice.
I’m tired of Governor Wolf pitting taxpayers against educators and students—I support both. I’ve voted for budgets that increase education spending to record levels without having to raise taxes on working Pennsylvanians. Governor Wolf vetoed those bipartisan budgets, leaving us in the situation we’re in today.
I was not sent to Harrisburg to capitulate to demands for runaway government spending and increase taxes on working Pennsylvanians. I look forward to working with my colleagues in crafting a responsible, smart, balanced budget that makes investments in education without punishing the Pennsylvania taxpayer.
Op-Ed: Vogel Wants to End Auto Emissions Program
The following is an op-ed I submitted to the Beaver County Times regarding my legislation eliminating emissions testing.
In response to the recent letters from two Beaver County residents upset with Pennsylvania’s emissions testing standards: I hear you loud and clear and I share your frustration. Emissions testing in Pennsylvania is unfair, unnecessary, and costly—and I’m working to repeal it.
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency requires all states to take measures to lower smog levels for a metropolitan area and gives states some leeway to customize their plan. Beaver County’s proximity to Pittsburgh means that most vehicles owned in Beaver County are required to pass annual vehicle emissions standards, but vehicles in Lawrence and Butler County are not. As the two previous letter writers have noted, the patchwork nature of this requirement is glaring.
Air quality, smog, and traffic patterns do not abide by county boundaries. There is no better example of how absurd emissions testing is than Ellwood City Borough. The Borough is located in both Beaver and Lawrence counties; therefore, residents on one side of Division Street are required to get tested while the residents on the other side are not. I represent folks in Beaver and Lawrence Counties—it doesn’t make a lick of sense that vehicle owners on one side of the road are forced to pay for yearly emissions testing while their neighbors are not.
Don’t take this to mean that I think emissions testing should be required for all Pennsylvanians. Rather, I want emissions testing ended entirely. Advancements in technology, alternative fuels, and stringent environmental regulation have significantly curtailed vehicular pollution. The statewide emissions failure rate is less than 2.5 percent and newest vehicles fail at a rate of one quarter of 1 percent. Furthermore, Pennsylvania already requires vehicle sold here to conform to stricter California emissions standards.
Statewide, it costs Pennsylvanians more than $250 million per year to have emissions testing and millions more in taxpayer dollars to administer the program. Emissions testing can add, on average, an extra $40 to your annual inspection costs per vehicle. It’s expensive enough to own and maintain a vehicle without having to pay for emissions testing. I want that extra money to stay in your pocket.
In 2012, the Senate approved my legislation exempting all passenger vehicles ten years old or newer and alternative fuel vehicles from vehicle emissions testing, but that bill died in the House of Representatives. Emissions testing is big business, and special interests ranging from the environmental to the automotive lobby have lined up against me on this issue. I’ve reintroduced that bill this session and continue to lobby my colleagues for their support.
The federal government has shown no willingness to eliminate emissions testing, so it’s up to individual states to fight back. I will not back down from this fight because I know my constituents in the 47th Senate District are fed up with shelling out their hard-earned money every year for this unnecessary test. Emissions testing is unfair, unnecessary, and ineffective. It’s clear that cleaner vehicles are helping the air and environment we live in, this costly emissions program is not.
Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on Fireworks Bill
Last week, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee held a public hearing on legislation that would legalize the sale of fireworks in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 1055, would lift the ban on the sale of “consumer” fireworks, known as “Class C” fireworks, and allow businesses legally operating in the state to sell consumer fireworks — such as bottle rockets, roman candles and mortars — to Pennsylvania residents without the need for a permit. Currently, state law allows the sale of these items only to residents of other states.
Senate Bill 1055 would generate additional revenue for the Commonwealth by requiring fireworks outlets to pay a $5,000 annual license fee. In addition to paying the state’s 6 percent sales tax, fireworks purchases would be subject to an excise tax with that money benefiting fire and emergency medical personnel.
Under this bill Pennsylvanians will have the same convenience as out-of-state residents and at the same time help to provide funds for our first responders.
Written testimony from the public hearing is available at http://agriculture.pasenategop.com/.
Click for video of the hearing.
Food Drive at My District Offices
I’ll be collecting non-perishable food items for area Salvation Armies at my Rochester and New Castle District Offices. The deadline to donate the non-perishable food items is March 21.
It’s important that we all do our part to remember those less fortunate. I hope many people join in helping to alleviate hunger in our area
Everyone making a donation will be entered into a drawing to win a gift. If you would like to participate, please drop off any non-perishable foods at my offices at 488 Adams Street in Rochester and 1905 W State Street in New Castle. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. For more information, please call 724-774-0444.
2015 Cosponsored Legislation Now Online
Property Tax Rebates Now Available
Applications are now available for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program and qualified individuals should file as soon as possible. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.
The program is open to state residents age 65 or older; widows and widowers age 50 or older; and, 100 percent disabled people 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, with half of Social Security income excluded.
The deadline for filing an application is July 1 and applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis after that date.
Applications and assistance are available at no cost at all of my district offices.
There is no charge to file a state Property Tax/Rent Rebate form; you should never pay any company or organization a fee to have it filed.
Keystone Historic Preservation Project Grants
Funding is available to nonprofit organizations and local governments for the planning and development for publicly accessible historic resources listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The purpose of the grant is to support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources of Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and the revitalization of communities. The minimum amount awarded is $5,000 and maximum is $25,000, must include 50/50 match.
Pennsylvania Governors Schools for the Agricultural Sciences
The Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences is a free, 4-week summer residential program for academically-excelling current-year high school juniors with an interest in agriculture and science in general.
Students participate in eight core classes over the duration of the
program. In the past, these classes have included Animal Science A to Z,
Environmental and Natural Resource Systems, Global Agriculture, Food
Science, and more.
Tax Forms Now Online
With tax season here, state residents can access forms and publications, obtain assistance with filling, and find other information on taxes from the state Department of Revenue. http://www.revenue.pa.gov/FormsandPublications/Pages/default.aspx#.VrumICQo7gN
Follow Me on Twitter!
I have a Twitter account to better connect with my constituents and provide daily updates on my voting record, whereabouts, state government, and local news affecting the 47 S.D. To access my Twitter page, click here.
contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to
receive help in dealing with a state agency.
Senate Box 203047