In order to keep local residents up to date on state government happenings and community events, I provide electronic news updates on a regular basis for interested citizens. These electronic newsletters allow me to provide regular updates while saving on printing and mailing costs.
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Local Participation Makes First Tele-Town Hall a Success
I deeply appreciate all of the local residents who took the time to listen in, ask questions and provide feedback during my first telephone town hall event this week. The telephone town hall included more than 6,000 participants, including nearly 750 who participated for 40 minutes or more. This level of participation shows that citizens are willing to do their part to improve the legislative process, and I value the effort that local citizens invested in this event.
In addition to sharing your thoughts and concerns, hundreds of participants also took the time to answer poll questions on some of the most important issues facing our state and region. School property taxes and government spending/debt were identified as the biggest concerns facing our state. Eighty-seven percent of poll responses favored allowing school districts to determine teacher retention and layoffs based on merit and performance, rather than relying solely on tenure. Many respondents favored raising the minimum wage, with a majority favoring an approach that would increase the rate to $8.75 over a three-year period. Opinions were split on the creation of a Marcellus Shale extraction tax and the legalization of medical cannabis.
Your participation helped make this event an overwhelming success, and I look forward to using the information I learned during this conversation to better represent your views in the Senate. I plan to host similar forums in the future to continue to gather feedback from citizens throughout the region.
Budget Hearings Begin March 16
The state budget determines how our tax dollars are allocated to various agencies and programs throughout Pennsylvania. Creating this spending plan is one of the legislatureís most important duties each year. Governor Wolf got this process started last week by unveiling his $33.8 billion state budget proposal. Unfortunately, many of the ideas the governor presented do not mesh with the opinions many local residents have shared with me throughout my entire tenure in the General Assembly.
The tax and spending increases in the governorís proposal are massive. The Wolf budget would raise taxes by approximately $4.8 billion this year and $12 billion over the next two years. The spending plan also fails to address many of the cost-drivers in the budget, including a public employee pension system that is in desperate need of reform. Neglecting to address the long-term viability and affordability of the pension systems was a missed opportunity.
It is my view that we should not ask Lancaster County residents to hand over even more money in the form of enormous tax increases without first fixing the structural deficit problems in the state budget. This will be one of my guiding principles as we move forward in the budget process.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a series of budget hearings with cabinet secretaries and agency leaders over the next three weeks. These public hearings allow members of the legislature to question members of the Wolf Administration on spending requests and budget priorities. This process will be invaluable in creating a budget that more accurately reflects the fiscal realities we face.
Property Tax Rent Rebate Forms Available
Application forms and additional information on the stateís Property Tax Rent Rebate program are available now at my district office in Lititz. The program provides rebates of up to $650 on property taxes or rent paid in 2014.
To be eligible, applicants must meet income requirements and be a Pennsylvania resident age 65 and older; a widow or widower age 50 or older; or a permanently disabled individual age 18 or older.
The program is available to homeowners with a household income of $35,000 or less and renters with a household income of $15,000 or less, excluding one-half of Social Security Income and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits. Rebate amounts vary based on income.
I encourage you to contact me if you have questions about the program or need assistance in obtaining or completing an application.
Senate Box 203036