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Senator Elder Vogel

Dear Friend,

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Elder Vogel

Last week, I attended the Beaver County Vietnam Veterans of America TET Party Reunion with my colleagues, Senator Bartolotta, Representatives Christiana & Marshall. Click here for more information about this annual event honoring our Vietnam vets.

Special Report: Budget Hearings

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I participated in the first week of public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed state budget for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year. The fact that the 2015-16 Fiscal Year budget was partially vetoed by Governor Wolf has immensely complicated the process. We heard detailed reports from cabinet secretaries and other officials regarding the budget. Click here for a schedule of upcoming hearings. The following is a recap of each of those hearings. To watch video of the hearing, click each individual title.

Department of Environmental Protection

We questioned DEP Secretary John Quigley about his department moving forward with the Obama Clean Power plan despite it being stayed by a court ruling. Other topics included:

Department of Community and Economic Development

The Committee spoke with DCED Secretary Dennis Davin regarding the impact of funding delays created by the Governor’s vetoes. Other topics include:

Governor's Budget Office/Executive Offices/Office of the Governor

We questioned Budget Secretary Randy Albright about Governor Wolf’s threatened huge cuts in education despite the General Assembly’s appropriation increasing funding for every school line item in 2015-16 budget. Other topics included:

  • The dangerous precedent of vetoing Legislature-approved appropriations and then seeking funds from state Treasury
  • School funding has increased every year, but Administration continues spreading debunked claim of “billion dollar education cut”
  • The long history of Pennsylvania structural deficits, and the new spending driving Governor Wolf’s tax hikes
  • Statistics show that academic performance is not based on how much tax money spent, but how it is spent
  • The problem of skyrocketing pension costs taking money out of classrooms

Independent Fiscal Office

We discussed the need to address spending and cost-drivers in the budget during a hearing with Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) Executive Director Matt Knittel. Other topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • The economic impact of Governor’s Wolf’s proposed tax increases and how they will affect seniors and middle-class working families
  • Pension costs and long-term budget impacts of pension debt
  • Projected economic activity and job growth over the next several years

Department of Treasury

The Wolf Administration’s questionable spending during the budget impasse was the main topic of discussion during our hearing with Pennsylvania Treasurer Timothy Reese. Other topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • Spending practices in other states during a budget impasse
  • Changes made to the time frame for claiming unclaimed property
  • New methods to support small business growth and development

Auditor General

The panel asked Auditor General Eugene DePasquale about several audits currently being conducted by the office. Discussions included:

  • The financial threat posed by ailing municipal pension plans
  • The fate of school districts running out of money due to the Governor’s veto of $3 billion in education spending
  • The discovery of “missing funds” totaling over $100 million dollars in one school district alone


During a hearing on the proposed budget for the Judiciary Justice Max Baer and Justice Debra McCloskey Todd answered questions on a variety of issues related to Pennsylvania’s court system including:

  • Efforts to keep children out of foster care and in homes
  • Cost-cutting measures being implemented internally, including bans on out-of-state travel
  • Transparency in judicial salaries
  • The impact of health care, retirement, and pension costs in the judiciary

State Police/Homeland Security

State Police Commissioner Colonel Tyree Blocker provided an update on the cadet class cheating investigation at the State Police Academy during the Appropriations Committee budget hearing on the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of Homeland Security. Other issues discussed during the hearing included:

  • Funding for future cadet classes
  • Police use of body cameras
  • Potential changes to the Amber Alert system
  • Local law enforcement use of radar

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Senate Appropriations Committee sought details on Department of Conservation and Natural Resources funding requests from Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. Topics included:

  • Declining oil and gas lease revenue hits and the possibility of opening additional land to leasing
  • ATV riding trails, ATV fatalities and the number of youth safety instructors.
  • State forest management
  • The status of oil and gas leases under Pennsylvania rivers
  • Act 13 natural gas development impact fee revenue

Drug and Alcohol Programs

The opiate epidemic in Pennsylvania was the main point of discussion during a public hearing with Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis. Topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • The use of Vivitrol (naloxone) in drug overdose and abuse treatment.
  • Public outreach initiatives
  • Criminal justice reform pertaining to drug crimes

Attorney General

Attorney General Kathleen Kane represented the Office of Attorney General and discussed the office’s budget. Other topics included:

  • Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
  • The War on Drugs
  • Staffing and pension obligation

Legislation to Expunge Minor Criminal Records Signed into Law

Legislation allowing individuals who have served a sentence for nonviolent second and third degree misdemeanors to petition the court to completely erase their criminal histories from public view has been signed into law.

Senate Bill 166, which I voted for and was unanimously approved, provides for an order of limited access for these misdemeanors, meaning that these histories are still available to law enforcement, but not available to anyone else. An individual may petition the court for an order of limited access after 10 years of maintaining a crime-free record. District attorneys may file an objection to this petition. Second and third degree misdemeanors include crimes such as criminal trespassing and vandalism.

This legislation is expected to help counter high rates of recidivism, relieve an overburdened pardon system, and provide more opportunities for ex-offenders to join the workforce.

Firefighter Relief Package Cosponsored

I’ve signed on to legislation providing relief to volunteer firefighters, volunteer fire companies, and other first responders.

Senate Bill 1127 exempts firefighters from the sales and use tax when purchasing protective gear and communications equipment using their own personal money. The cost of protective equipment alone is in the thousands of dollars. We should do whatever we can to make it more affordable to be a volunteer firefighter.

Senate Bill 1126 will help volunteer firefighters companies, ambulance companies, and rescue squads fundraise by making it easier for them to obtain Special Occasion Liquor Permits for fundraisers.

We’ve seen a steady decline in the number of volunteer firefighters serving in Pennsylvania for years. I think state government should do whatever we can to make it easier for volunteer firefighter companies to continue to serve their communities.

Vanport Bridge Rehabilitation Begins

The Vanport Bridge rehabilitation project begins this Monday. The $15.87 million Vanport Bridge Rehabilitation Project includes the painting of the structure, a deck overlay, new bearings, dam replacements, lighting improvements and electrical upgrades on the bridge that carries I-376 over the Ohio River.

Single-lane traffic in each direction will be maintained on the bridge through late October, 2017. All ramps at the Beaver (Exit 38B) and Midland (Exit 38A) interchange will remain open to traffic throughout the project.

The project is slated to conclude in early 2018.

Are you interested in staying up-to-date on PennDOT projects in our area? Click here to sign up for their press releases to be delivered to your inbox.

EITC/OSTC Scholarship Program

I’d like to take a moment to extend my sincere appreciation to Waste Management of Pennsylvania, which recently contributed $19,000 to schools in the 47th Senate District through the EITC program. If your company has contributed, please let me know.

In 2001, Pennsylvania enacted the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. It allows companies to donate their corporate state taxes to local schools instead of paying them to the state. Similarly, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program allows businesses to contribute to provide tuition assistance for students residing within the boundaries of a low-achieving school to attend another public or nonpublic school.

If your business pays any of these taxes, you are eligible to donate your tax money to local schools of your choice educating children from our area:
Personal Income Tax
Capital Stock/Foreign Franchise Tax
Corporate Net Income Tax
Bank Shares Tax
Title Insurance & Trust Company Shares Tax
Insurance Premium Tax
Mutual Thrift Tax
Malt Beverage Tax
Retaliatory Fees under section 212 of the Insurance Company Law of 1921

For more information and to apply for these tax credits, click here.

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend Alexander D’Itri’s Eagle Scout ceremony in Midland. Congratulations Alexander!

Reforms to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Beginning March 1, able-bodied adults who receive SNAP benefits and do not have any dependents will be required to fulfill a federally mandated work requirement in order to receive benefits for more than three months during a three-year period.

SNAP recipients who will be affected by this change will be notified by the Department of Human Services in order to discuss the work requirement further and take the appropriate steps moving forward.

Click here for more information about these changes to the SNAP Program.

Upcoming FREE workshop for anyone interested in business start-up and ownership courtesy of the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center. See flier for more information.

Beaver County Farm Accepted into Farmland Preservation Program

I’m pleased to announce that a 79-acre tract of farmland in Darlington Township, Beaver County, has been accepted into the state Farmland Preservation Program.

The program guarantees a future local food supply and contributes to the local economy. The program is a partnership between all levels of government and non-profit organizations - with a common goal of saving prime farmland for generations to come.

Click here for more information about the program.

Do your Taxes For Free

The IRS Free File Program provides free access to the industry’s most innovative and secure tax software. Every taxpayer with a 2015 Adjusted Gross Income of $62,000 or less may visit to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost. Free state return options are also available.

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

Please contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to receive help in dealing with a state agency.

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Contact Me


Senate Box 203047
362 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3047
Phone: (717) 787-3076
FAX: (717) 772-2756

8:30 - 4:30

488 Adams Street
Rochester, PA 15074-1940
Phone: (724) 774-0444
FAX: (724) 773-7384

New Castle
1905 W. State Street
New Castle, PA 16101
Phone: (724) 654-1444
FAX: (724) 656-3182



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