I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of February 6, 2017.
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Governor Wolf Unveils His Proposed 2017-18 Budget
Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his proposed $32.338 billion General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18 before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
The Governor’s proposal represents a $571.5 million (1.8 percent) increase in spending from the FY 2016-17 budget. It also projects a shortfall of $640 million in anticipated revenues for FY 2016-17. The most recent IFO projection is a $716 million shortfall.
The Governor’s budget recognizes a $3 billion preliminary deficit for FY 17-18, a number virtually identical to previous Senate Republican projections. To fill that gap, the Governor is proposing $2 billion in cuts and savings initiatives and $1 billion in new taxes. However, the Governor is not requesting an increase in either the income tax or sales tax rates.
This budget is a work in progress, definitely. There are a few good things in there. I am glad that the Governor is focused upon finding efficiencies in state government. Whether we end up doing the ones he wants is another question, but we are going to have to dig into those details.
I am a little bit concerned because there are $1 billion in tax increases. It’s not the personal income tax or sales tax, however there is a severance tax in there, some expansions of the sales tax -- things that really are not good policy for our state. We are going to have to work on that too.
Pension reform is such a huge cost driver across the board, until we tackle that everything else is a short-term band aid. Pension reform is a priority of mine, and it is something we must do sooner rather than later. It will require leadership from the Governor to finally tackle this issue.
The Senate’s consideration of the Governor’s proposals will begin later this month with three weeks of budget hearings before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Click for audio.
Finance Committee Approves Bills to Help Small Businesses
The Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, approved three bills on Tuesday intended to help Pennsylvania’s small businesses expand and grow. When the Commonwealth invests in small businesses, it is an investment that strengthens the economic fiber of our communities and, directly or indirectly, sustains the quality of life for us all.
Senate Bill 201, sponsored by Senator Mike Folmer, provides for “like-kind” exchange tax deferrals.
Senate Bill 202, sponsored by Senator John Eichelberger, permits a small business to deduct net losses from a subsequent tax year’s state tax liability.
Senate Bill 203, which I sponsored, increases the deductible amount of a small business’ qualifying equipment purchases to the amount that may currently be deducted under Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code.
This is not a major jump, especially when you take into account the potential costs facing the small business as it looks to modernize or grow. However, it may be a small measure of financial relief that will encourage a small business owner to move forward, to make that important investment that ultimately means the difference between prosperity and shuttering the shop.
The committee also approved two measures that would set reasonable limits on state spending.
Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Senator Folmer, creates the Taxpayer Protection Act which limits the State appropriation increases to the average percentage change in personal income in the Commonwealth for the prior three years or to the average percentage change in inflation for the three years prior plus the average percentage change in the state population for the three years prior, whichever is less.
Senate Bill 173, sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta, is a constitutional amendment providing for state appropriation limits.
Click for audio from the committee meeting.
Senate Action Recap
The Senate approved bills this week modifying Pennsylvania’s abortion law, improving safety by addressing dangerous illegal aliens, reforming government, and setting equitable pay standards.
The bills, which now head to the House of Representatives, include:
Senate Bill 3, which amends the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks and prohibits dismemberment abortion.
Senate Bill 10, which holds a “municipality of refuge” accountable for not enforcing state and federal laws relating to immigration.
Senate Bill 166, which ensures that political campaign funds are not collected by public sector unions through government-provided mechanisms with taxpayer resources.
Senate Bill 170, which requires comprehensive reform measures at the Delaware River Port Authority.
Senate Bill 181, which establishes a performance-based budget component.
Senate Bill 241, which prohibits sexual discrimination in employee pay rates.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved four bills on Monday.
Senate Bill 10 holds a “municipality of refuge” accountable for not enforcing state and federal laws relating to immigration.
Senate Bill 137 codifies the Civil Air Patrol’s state operations in Title 51 under the leadership of the Adjutant General.
Senate Bill 166 ensures that political campaign funds are not collected by public sector unions through government-provided mechanisms with taxpayer resources.
Senate Bill 167 calls for a Constitutional amendment ending the practice of using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to collect money used for politics.
The Senate JUDICIARY Committee approved Senate Bill 3 on Monday. The bill amends the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks and prohibits dismemberment abortion.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate RULES & EXECUTIVE NOMINATIONS Committee approved Senate Bill 10 on Monday. The bill prevents municipalities and counties from designating themselves as “sanctuary cities” in order to thwart federal efforts to combat illegal immigration.
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure
The Senate CONSUMER PROTECTION & PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 54 strengthens the Puppy Lemon Law.
Senate Bill 274 officially recognizes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under Pennsylvania statute.
Senate Bill 297 updates the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act
The Senate TRANSPORTATION Committee approved four bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 251 would permit all municipal police to utilize radar for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 265 would designate the Market Street Bridge in Harrisburg as the Senator Harold Mowery Market Street Bridge.
Senate Bill 279 would permit full-time municipal police officers employed by full-service police departments or regional police departments in counties of the first class, second class, second class A and third class to use radar or LIDAR for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 288 would increase fines and suspend the licenses of repeat offenders of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” law.
Communications & Technology
The Senate COMMUNICATIONS & TECHNOLOGY Committee approved Senate Bill 133 on Wednesday. The bill repeals the REAL ID Nonparticipation Act (Act 38 of 2012), which prohibits Pennsylvania from complying with the Federal REAL ID Act.
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