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.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatoraument.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. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.
General Assembly Completes 2016-17 Budget-Related Bills
Two weeks ago, lawmakers sent Governor Wolf a bipartisan state spending plan that devoted new dollars to education and agriculture without the need for a broad-based tax increase. This week, the General Assembly passed the final measures necessary to complete the budget process, including a package of new revenues.
After careful consideration, I voted against the new taxes primarily because they will disproportionately hurt Lancaster Countyís agriculture industries and farmers. I believe other sources of revenue would have been more appropriate to consider.
Much of the growth in state government spending is due to rapidly escalating pension costs, which accounted for $5.8 billion in total spending and $485 million in new dollars this year alone. The Department of Human Services required an additional $466 million, and the Department of Corrections accounted for more than $152 million in new spending.
Although these costs are mandated by state or federal law, lawmakers can still explore options to limit the growth of these expenses in the future. It is critical to rein in these charges in order to prevent tax increases in the future.
With this yearís budget behind us, I am hopeful that lawmakers can move forward and take action on measures to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government programs, support business growth and create an opportunity society in which every state resident has a chance to succeed.
More information on the budget and revenue package is available here.
School Code Amendments Support Innovation, Cost Savings
Lawmakers approved several amendments to the Public School Code this week as part of a package of bills to complete the 2016-17 budget. These amendments included a proposal I introduced to allow school districts to enter into partnerships to perform routine administrative functions in order to cut costs. I am pleased this measure and other reforms were signed into law yesterday.
The plan will allow school districts to negotiate an agreement to share administrative personnel, including superintendents, business administrators, office personnel and management, as well as certain services with support and technical assistance from the Department of Education.
Other amendments included the creation of a program I introduced along with Rep. Mindy Fee to establish hybrid learning grants that blend digital resources with traditional classroom instruction. Both the hybrid learning and administrative partnerships proposals were introduced based on innovative plans developed by Lancaster County school districts.
In addition to these two new programs, the law mandates that annual financial information related to public school entities be included on the Pennsylvania Department of Educationís SchoolWATCH website to ensure greater transparency. Measures to ease the shortage of substitute teachers, support drug and alcohol addiction recovery for students, and strengthen the Education Improvement Tax Credit program and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program were also included.
Additional information about amendments to the School Code is available here.
Senate Box 203036