View in browser
Week of February 6, 2017
In this Edition:
Gov. Wolf’s Latest Budget Again Seeks More Spending and More Taxes
On Tuesday, Governor Wolf announced his budget proposal for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year in an address to a joint session of the General Assembly.
Governor Wolf finally acknowledges the need to rein in spending and to create a leaner, more efficient state government. Of course, achieving this end goal takes action beyond simply zeroing out line items on a budget sheet.
During his budget address, Governor Wolf gave us a lot of feel-good talking points. It is important to remember, though, that Governor Wolf’s proposal still increases spending by more than a half-billion dollars, or 1.8%, over the current fiscal year budget. While this is a marked improvement over his first two budgets, considering the Commonwealth is facing a $3 billion shortfall, the final spending total should be less, not more.
While Governor Wolf touts that his budget does not call for broad-based tax increases, understand that he is still calling for $1 billion in tax increases to feed the traditional tax-and-spend beast that is our state government.
Governor Wolf referenced a Harrisburg in which “special interests always found a way to avoid giving up their special privileges.” If the Governor expects to truly rein in spending, he needs to take his own statement seriously and not allow special interest groups to control the conversation. He continues to propose increased spending for education without addressing the cost drivers of our education system – pensions, salaries, and benefits.
Obviously, Governor Wolf’s address was only the beginning of the process for the 2017-2018 state budget. I look forward to getting the Senate Appropriations Budget Hearings underway in two weeks. I anticipate asking the heads of each department very pointed questions in order to achieve a truly fiscally responsible budget that brings efficiency to our state government and accountability to taxpayer dollars.
Senate Votes to Implement Performance-Based Budgeting
On Monday, the Senate unanimously passed Performance Based Budgeting legislation, a measure I am co-sponsoring to streamline and justify discretionary and state government spending. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 181 would require departments and agencies to justify their budget requests beginning with dollar one – for all existing and proposed programs for each fiscal year – before they can receive consideration for funding. The bill would create a performance-based budget board to review each agency’s proposal and recommend ways to make programs more transparent, effective, and efficient.
If we are serious about implementing smart, efficient budgeting, government must justify its use of taxpayer funding each and every year, beginning with dollar one.
Legislation Banning Taxpayer-Funded Collection of Political Contributions Passes Senate
The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation I am co-sponsoring to prevent the taxpayer-funded collection of money for political activity.
Senate Bill 166 ensures in statute that political campaign funds are not collected for public sector unions by the Commonwealth and school districts. Legislation I am the prime sponsor of, Senate Bill 167, would make this taxpayer protection permanent through an amendment to the state Constitution. That measure is still currently before the Senate. Senate Bill 166 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
These Paycheck Protection measures are about more than the cost of processing these deductions. The unions that benefit from these political funds use the money to lobby against major issues like pension reform and the elimination of property taxes, further taking a toll on the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.
Abortion Ban Bill Approved by Senate, Sent to House
On Wednesday, the Senate approved legislation to amend the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks and to prohibit dismemberment abortions.
Senate Bill 3, approved by a vote of 32-18, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Acts to Enforce Immigration Laws
The Senate voted 37-12 Tuesday to advance legislation I am co-sponsoring to require municipalities to report illegal immigrants who are arrested and pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities and residents.
Senate Bill 10 addresses “sanctuary cities,” requiring cities and counties to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for those who are arrested by local authorities.
Under the bill, municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime.
The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Legislation Strengthening PA Equal Pay Law Approved by Senate
Legislation to update and strengthen Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 241 allows employers to determine wages based on the level or amount of education, training or experience, and prohibits employer discrimination against an employee who files a complaint.
The bill also prohibits employers from requiring that workers not disclose their salary. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following 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 Transportation Committee approved four bills on Wednesday:
Senate Bill 251 permits all municipal police to utilize radar for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 265 designates the Market Street Bridge in Harrisburg as the Senator Harold Mowery Market Street Bridge.
Senate Bill 279 permits 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 increases fines and suspends the licenses of repeat offenders of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” law.
The committee also held a public hearing on environmental permitting reviews and modernizing financial statements. I took this opportunity to ask why PennDOT is conducting paving projects rather than bidding them out to contractors and suggested that PennDOT utilize winter staff to do highway clean-up, which in turn would allow them to identify areas in need of repair.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, which I serve on, will hold public budget hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed budget from February 21 to March 9. You can watch the hearings live at PASenateGOP.com, and I will send out weekly recaps of the proceedings.
The Senate returns to voting session on March 20 at 1 p.m. You can watch session at SenatorScottWagner.com.
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.