In this Edition:
Governor Vetoes Emergency Funding, House Plans Vote on Wolf Tax Hikes Next Week
I was disappointed with Governor Wolf’s veto of the stop-gap budget package approved by the legislature that would have provided vital relief to local school districts and social service agencies impacted by the prolonged budget impasse.
With this action, the governor is now withholding more than $65 million in payments to fund school districts in the 24th Senatorial District. Those taxes are still being collected. The state has the money. The governor is holding it back to force passage of his record tax hike. It’s an awful tactic to use and that’s why no governor has used it before.
The stop-gap budget represented the latest effort by the General Assembly to help schools, counties, municipalities and agencies that saw their state payments end on July 1 after Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 1192 (the Fiscal Year 2015-16 general fund spending bill) on June 30 — almost immediately after its passage by the General Assembly.
The three-bill package — Senate Bill 1000 (Stop Gap Appropriations Act), Senate Bill 1001 (Fiscal Code Budget Implementation) and House Bill 224 (Public School Code) – would have provided $11.2 billion in state allocations. That represents one-third (four months) of the state funding as authorized by HB 1192 with limited exceptions.
Governor Wolf missed an opportunity to show leadership and good will. Providing this funding relief would have simply given all sides time to continue working on a final budget. Now, not only are we no closer to agreement, but schools, domestic abuse shelters and foster children are being made to suffer.
24th Senatorial District Education Payments Vetoed by Gov. Wolf
U.S., PA, Rank Poorly for Sound, Competitive Tax Policy
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has released its 2015 International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI), and once again, the United States ranks 32nd out of the 34 countries making up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
With the 3rd least competitive tax code in the developed world, only Italy and France have less competitive codes. On the other end of the spectrum, Estonia, New Zealand, and Switzerland have the most competitive tax codes among OECD nations.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania's ranking in state and local tax burden, according to the Tax Foundation, is 10th heaviest among states and third heaviest among the most populous states, behind New York and California.
Clearly, the last thing we need in state and federal policy is a call for more taxation.
Bill to Reduce Fresh Water Use in Drilling Sent to Governor for Enactment
Legislation to reduce the use of fresh water in oil and gas drilling operations was approved by the Senate on Tuesday and sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 875 clarifies legal liabilities associated with the use of treated mine water in oil and gas operations. The use of treated mine water holds the potential to significantly decrease the use of fresh water in the natural gas extraction process, reducing the withdrawal demand on Pennsylvania rivers, lakes and streams.
The legislation does not weaken any existing environmental safeguards designed to protect public health. It would only clarify parties that could be held responsible if the mine water is not treated or utilized properly.
The Senate sent two other bills to the governor’s desk this week.
Senate Bill 513 allows the vehicular transportation of leachate discharged from a municipal or private landfill's collection and handling system.
House Bill 33 amends the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code to permit alternate members for planning commissions.
Visiting Team Physician Bills Sent to House
The Senate approved two bills I am co-sponsoring that will allow out-of-state visiting athletic team physicians to treat athletes during athletic events without the need for a Pennsylvania medical license.
Many teams in Pennsylvania and around the country employ medical personnel who travel with the team and coaches for the purpose of providing medical care. These team physicians have established medical relationships with the athletes and are well suited to provide care while teams are competing. 21 states currently allow for visiting team physicians to practice in their state without meeting home state licensing requirements.
Senate Bill 685 and Senate Bill 686 amend state laws to allow out-of-state visiting athletic team physicians to treat athletes during athletic events without the need for a Pennsylvania medical license as long as they are licensed in their home state and have an agreement with the visiting sports team to provide care for them while traveling.
Additional Bills Sent to the House
Senate Bill 785 clarifies that buildings, whether permanently attached to land, water, gas, electric or sewer facilities or, are subjects of taxation for real estate tax purposes.
House Bill 823 amends Act 164 of 2014 regulating local Tax Collectors to make it easier to fill vacancies, expand the criminal history checks, and more. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 898 provides clarification on provisions that require the adjustment of property tax rates following a countywide reassessment in Second Class counties to make them revenue neutral.
Senate Bill 899 provides clarification on provisions that require the adjustment of property tax rates following a countywide reassessment in Second Class counties to make them revenue neutral.
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