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Senator Scott Wagner


The Senate Appropriations Committee has wrapped up three weeks of public hearings on the Governorís proposed 2016-2017 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 members.

If you would like to take a look back at any of the previous hearings, be sure to visit the 2016-2017 budget page on my website where I have prior Budget Hearing Recaps, as well as a playlist of my Q&A videos.


Department of Human Services

3/7/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Human Services

Many of my colleagues addressed the major issues regarding the Department of Human Services, so I yielded my time for questions but not before expressing concern for the Departmentís proposed increase of $990 million.

The committee discussed the following with Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas:

  • Efforts to provide community-based care to disabled and senior citizens rather than more expensive nursing home care
  • The Governorís line-item veto of funding for critical care hospitals, burn centers, and neo-natal units.
  • Forensic mental health facility backlogs and waiting lists
  • Early Intervention services funding
  • Wages for direct care workers
  • Reductions in office space to reflect the departmentís lower employee complement
  • Potential declines in the Lottery Fund and alternative sources for funding programs
  • Closing and consolidating facilities in a manner to ensure cost-savings while still providing services
  • The number of youth development centers and their effectiveness in helping children
  • Rising pension costs and their impact on the departmentís budget
  • Lack of autism services
  • Placement times for people needing home and community-based care
  • Fragmentation in the delivery of mental health services
  • The relationship between the Department of Human Services and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services, particularly in terms of funding

Full Hearing

Department of Revenue

3/7/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Revenue/Lottery

During the Department of Revenue budget hearing I asked Secretary Eileen McNulty about her Departmentís involvement in the Governorís broad-based tax increase proposals, efforts to capture sales tax payments from businesses not remitting the tax, and initiatives to reduce costs.

Other topics discussed by members included:

  • The growth in operational and pension costs for the department
  • Lottery machines in state-owned liquor stores
  • The Governorís proposed tax on casino promotional play
  • Lottery marketing efforts and potential new sales outlets
  • The ability of the Department of Revenue and the Department of Human Services to collaborate in order to prevent welfare fraud
  • Natural gas extraction tax revenue estimates
  • The scope of the Governorís minimum wage Executive Order

Full Hearing

Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

3/7/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Military & Veterans Affairs

I commended the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on all they do for our veterans, and I was pleased by their efforts to reduce costs in their work. To further understand the population being served in our veteransí homes I requested a breakdown by age range and the number of individuals in each facility.

Acting Adjutant General Brigadier General Anthony Carrelli and other department representatives also discussed with the committee:

  • 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 Center
  • Home care for veterans

Full Hearing


Department of Education

3/8/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Education

During the budget hearing with Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, I covered topics including prevailing wage mandates, the fact that we have 500 school districts negotiating wage and benefit increases, and audits of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh school districts.

Other topics covered by the panel included:

  • Proposed funding increases for Head Start and Pre-K Counts but not Early Intervention
  • Special Education Funding Levels
  • Implementing the new Basic Education Funding Formula
  • The fate of Keystone Exams
  • State grants for high-skill careers
  • Library funding
  • EITC Tax Credits for businesses in 2016-17
  • Pensions diverting 30% of every school dollar from the classroom
  • The Administrationís use of a dedicated fund to pay off pension debt
  • Ideas to reduce education costs
  • Greater utilization of vocational-technical schools
  • Efforts to combat bullying in schools

Full Hearing

Liquor Control Board

3/8/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: LCB

 I took the opportunity to point out to Chairman of the Liquor Control Board, former Congressman Tim Holden, that for a $2.8 billion enterprise, the return on investment Ė $80 million in profits Ė is minimal. I challenged the Board to provide at least $300 million for the Commonwealth, and then I would stop pushing for privatization.

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 establishments that serve alcohol

Full Hearing

Department of Health

Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Physician General Rachel Levine discussed efforts to improve health care services to Pennsylvania residents and answered questions on the following topics:

  • Automating the death certificate process and making it more efficient
  • The schedule for inspecting hospice services
  • Pennsylvaniaís low status in health indicators
  • 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

Full Hearing

Next Week

The Senate returns to session on Monday. You can watch session live at my website.

Stay Connected

I welcome your feedback and input. Please donít hesitate to contact me via my website.

You can also find me on Twitter at @SenScottWagner as well as on Facebook.

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2016 © Senate of Pennsylvania