The Senate Appropriations Committee this week wrapped
up three weeks of public hearings on the proposed state budget. Below you will
find videos from all of my Q&A sessions with department heads during this weekís
hearings. Additionally, I have included highlights of topics covered by other
Week One Recap
Week Two Recap
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday. You can
watch live at
Monday, March 7, 2016
Department of Human Services
Senator Mensch talks to Secretary Ted Dallas about the
growing concerns shared by service providers in the 24th Senatorial District,
which include questions regarding the support intensity scale and the
compensation for support service personnel.
The committee also discussed the following with Secretary Dallas:
- Efforts to move disabled and senior citizens into community settings, as
opposed to more expensive nursing home care.
- The governorís decision to blue line funding for vital health care
areas, including critical care hospitals, burn centers and neo-natal units.
- Backlogs in forensic mental health facilities, and the long waiting
lists for services.
- The effectiveness of early intervention services and the need for
- Concerns about the wages for direct care workers.
- Reductions in office space to reflect the lower employee complement of
- Projections that the Lottery Fund may continue to decline and how
programs will be funded.
- The planning process for closing and consolidating facilities to ensure
the best cost-savings while still providing services.
- The number of youth development centers and their effectiveness in
- Rising pension costs and their impact on the departmentís budget.
- A failure to fund autism services despite the significant need.
- The length of time it takes to place patients in home and
- Information on the governorís plan to increase the minimum wage for
employees under his jurisdiction.
- Fragmentation in the delivery of mental health services.
- The relationship between the department and the Department of Drug and
Alcohol Services, particularly in terms of funding.
Department of Revenue
During the PA Department of Revenue/Lottery hearing,
Senator Mensch asks Secretary Eileen McNulty about the damaging effects that the
bank shares tax increase will have on the consumer. In addition, he emphasizes
that the Governor's proposed 10 percent to 11 percent tax increase will only
hurt the middle class.
Other topics discussed by members included:
- The growth in operational and pension costs for the department.
- The possible inclusion of Lottery machines in state-owned liquor stores.
- The effect of the governorís proposed tax on casino promotional play.
- Efforts to improve Sales and Use Tax collection.
- Lottery marketing efforts and potential new sales outlets.
- The ability of the Department of Revenue to coordinate with the
Department of Human Services to prevent fraud.
- Natural gas extraction tax revenue estimates that appear to be greater
than what the market can support.
- The scope of the governorís Executive Order pertaining to the minimum
Department of Military and Veterans
Acting Adjutant General Brigadier General Anthony Carrelli discussed the
importance of state veteransí homes during the Senate Appropriations Committee
hearing. Other topics included:
- The growth in employee pension costs in recent years.
- Factors driving the rise in long-term care costs.
- Security at state military installations.
- Job opportunities for veterans after separating from military service.
- Total dollars received from the federal government by the Department.
- Problems identified during an inspection of the Gino Merli Veteransí
- Home care for veterans.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Department of Education
Questioning Secretary Pedro Rivera, Senator Mensch notes
that only 19 cents of every dollar spent on education makes it into the
classroom. In addition, he stresses that PA needs to consider more measureable
standards and implement more accountability in order to ensure that every
education dollar spent has the greatest impact on education.
Other topics covered by the panel included:
- The governorís proposed increases in spending on head start and pre-k
counts programs but not the early intervention program for IU's.
- Driving out all new school spending through the new Basic Education
- The fate of Keystone Exams.
- State grants for high-skill careers.
- Library funding and modern uses.
- EITC Tax Credits for businesses in 2016-17
- The departmentís requested funding increase exceeds the rate of
- Wage and benefit contracts at local level.
- Prevailing wage mandates driving up the cost of school construction and
- Pennsylvania has a declining number of students but is spending more
- Pensions divert 30 percent of every school dollar from classroom.
- The Administrationís use of a dedicated fund to pay off pension debt.
- Ideas to reduce education costs.
- Greater utilization of vocational-technical schools.
- The impact of the governorís minimum wage executive order on school
- Efforts to combat bullying in schools.
- The level of special education funding.
- The new Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Education.
Liquor Control Board
Senator Mensch asks PLCB Chairman Tim Holden about the
measurements in place to monitor inventory and sales in stores and measuring
investment of stores.
Other issues discussed during the hearing included:
- The benefits of modernization vs. privatization.
- Special pricing of products and expanded hours of operations.
- Profit margins for the overall system and for individual outlets.
- Complement of employees and associated pension costs.
- PLCB transfers to the General Fund.
- Liquor license and permit fees.
- Competitiveness with neighboring states.
- Training programs for management and employees in establishment that
Department of Health
Senator Mensch asks Health Secretary Karen Murphy and
Physician General Rachel Levine about the impact of the Governor's vetoes and
reduction in line items for preventative healthcare. In addition, he asks for
their input on the standards for cancer screenings.
The hearing also covered the following areas:
- Why regional poison centers were blue-lined by the governor.
- Automating the death certificate process and making it more efficient.
- The schedule for inspecting hospice services.
- Pennsylvaniaís low status in health indicators.
- A reduction in the cystic fibrosis program funding and other programs
that were cut by the governor.
- Raising the age for screening for various cancers.
- Exceptions to the Clean Air Act.
- Efforts to combat Lyme disease and the cost of implementation of Lyme
Disease Task Force recommendations.
- Allegations against practices by Planned Parenthood and whether an
investigation took place.
- New, more medically stringent EMS guidelines.
- Recruiting and retaining primary care physicians.
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