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2016-17 State Budget Hearings Begin Feb. 22
Earlier this week, I shared my thoughts on Gov. Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 state budget. I was disappointed that he continues to demand record tax and spending increases, while doing nothing to address the source of escalating costs: public pensions.
In two weeks, I and my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin three weeks of public hearings on the proposed budget. Looming over the proceedings will be the Governor’s call for $3.6 billion in tax increases, including a 10.7 percent hike in the Personal Income Tax, retroactive to January 1, 2016.
In addition to runaway pension costs, those tax hikes are driven by Gov. Wolf’s excessive new spending requests, which far exceed that of his Republican and Democrat predecessors:
I said noted earlier this week, I am convinced we can continue to fulfill the needs of schools and social service providers without the massive tax hikes the Governor demands. To do that, the Governor will to take a more realistic approach to the budget, listen to taxpayers, and work with the General Assembly to enact a responsible spending plan.
Senate Vote to Remove Attorney General Falls Short
On Wednesday, I joined a majority of Senators (29-19) voting in favor of Senate Resolution 284 removing Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office due to the suspension of her license to practice law in Pennsylvania. However, the measure failed to meet the two-thirds majority specified by the Pennsylvania Constitution in order to directly remove an elected official from office.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives approved House Resolution 659, which authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the conduct of Attorney General Kathleen Kane and to determine whether she should be subject to impeachment.
Adoption of HR 659 is the first step in the impeachment process under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Depending on the subcommittee's findings, another House resolution would be needed to formally file one or more counts of impeachment, which then would have to be approved by the House. If adopted, the Senate would conduct the trial, and requires a two-thirds vote for conviction and removal.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously voted on September 21 to suspend Kane’s license based on accusations of perjury and other charges stemming from a leak of grand jury information. The newly elected, Democrat-majority state Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed that decision last week.
Joint Hearing Focuses on Line Item Veto and Distribution of Funds
Senator Mensch questions Treasury Chief Counsel Christopher Craig about the constitutional authority of Gov. Wolf to spend state funds after vetoing 2015-16 appropriations approved by the General Assembly.
The hearing focused on the State Treasurer’s role in approving warrants (requests for payment) from state executive agencies during the time period when no legal authority existed for payments to be made.
This has raised serious questions over how services critical to the safety, health and welfare of Pennsylvania’s residents will receive funding during a budget impasse or when funding is cut or reduced following a Governor’s line item veto.
You can view testimony and video of the entire hearing here.
Options for Schools to Meet 180-Day Requirement Sent to Governor
A measure giving schools greater flexibility to meet the state’s 180-day requirements for classroom instruction after emergency and weather-related closings was sent to the Governor this week for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 158 would provide potential scheduling options for school entities facing extended closings that include a school year with a minimum number of hours of instruction, in lieu of the 180-day requirement, and approving additional instruction days on not more than one Saturday a month.
Also sent to the Governor was Senate Bill 166, which would allow expungement of some misdemeanors.
On Wednesday the Senate approved and sent to the Governor House Bill 561, which provides an Earned Income Tax exemption for active duty military pay and House Bill 941, which amends the Administrative Code to:
Senate Sends Four Bills to the House
The Senate approved four bills this week and sent the measures to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 489 reduces the maximum fee that a check casher may charge for cashing government checks.
Senate Bill 568 makes changes for guardianship in Pennsylvania based on recommendations from the Joint State Government Commission’s Advisory Committee on Decedents’ Estates Laws.
House Bill 1296 expands the financial products that municipalities, school districts, and municipal authorities may invest their general fund moneys. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 889 extends benefits to enforcement officers and investigators of the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, March 14. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
Twitter and Facebook: I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatormensch.com for more information about you
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