In this update:
Governor’s Budget Proposal Grows State Government Spending 2X Rate of Inflation
This week, Gov. Josh Shapiro shared his proposed 2024-25 state budget. We heard the governor express the need to spend a lot of hard-earned tax dollars that will grow state government spending by more than 7% – nearly double the rate of inflation.
In addition to making it extremely difficult to balance future budgets, the governor’s spending plan would completely eliminate the state’s current and future budgetary reserves in the next five years. Unrealistic spending and revenue projections mean the governor’s budget plan will likely require deep spending cuts and painful broad-based tax increases on Pennsylvanians much sooner.
What we did not hear the governor say is a concrete strategy to pay for this spending spree he wants to take our state on during the next year. While this budget proposal would work great in Washington, D.C., where politicians can print more money to pay for endless spending, Pennsylvania taxpayers will be forced to pay even more in taxes to cover the governor’s extravagant spending with this budget.
Shapiro’s budget approach, which would likely result in higher inflation when families are already struggling, runs in opposition to the cautious and responsible budgets Senate Republicans have fought to enact. In the next several months, Senate Republicans will examine Shapiro’s budget proposal and search for greater efficiencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its series of budget hearings to study the budget proposal on Feb. 20.
You can watch my reaction to the governor’s budget proposal here.
Prioritizing State Cybersecurity
With numerous agencies, including the Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania court system falling victim to cyberattacks, the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures is urgent. I am pleased that the Senate approved my legislation to adopt top-notch cybersecurity practices to protect the sensitive data of all Pennsylvanians.
My bill requires all state computer hardware acquisitions to adhere to the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) guidelines for cybersecurity – the gold standard in the field.
I firmly believe that cybersecurity considerations should be integral to every government hardware purchasing decision. The bill is now in the House of Representatives for consideration.
You can watch my remarks on this critical legislation here.
Additionally, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee held a joint public hearing with the Senate State Government Committee regarding the recently announced server deletion of Pennsylvania State Police and State Employee Retirement System information and data.
The server deletion was the result of human error, and the state is now in an emergency procurement contract with a company based in Seattle, WA to help recover the data at a cost of more than half-a-million dollars.
You can watch my Q&A from the hearing here.
Following the hearing, Sen. Tracy Pennycuick, who chairs the Communications and Technology Committee and I announced we will sponsor legislation to elevate the role of the state’s Chief Information Officer to a cabinet level position. With ongoing cyberattacks, hacking attempts and best practices not being followed, I believe having someone at the table with the governor and other agency leaders will help our state government be more nimble and better prepared as our reliance on technology will only increase.
Watch my comments on the forthcoming legislation here.
You can learn more about this issue here.
Addressing Abandoned Museum Property
The Senate of Pennsylvania also approved my bill to bolster the management practices of our state’s museums and historical societies. The legislation addresses ownership challenges for abandoned or unclaimed items, streamlining processes for conservation and ethical disposal of historical artifacts.
This bill provides a systematic process for handling unclaimed property, aligning with recent legislative trends in other states. My legislation is now headed to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
York County School of Technology Visits Capitol
On a busy state budget day, I had the privilege of connecting with exceptionally ambitious and bright students from the York County School of Technology. A big thank you to Mr. Scott Rogers and his outstanding students for taking the time to share how the York County School of Technology is actively shaping and preparing them for the careers of tomorrow!
First Legislative Roundtable of 2024
I had an informative time at the first Legislative Roundtable of 2024 with the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce. The highlight of the morning was undoubtably recognizing Gary Laird’s remarkable 40-year career and retirement as Chamber President. From Columbia Gas to boosting Hanover’s economic development, Gary’s impact to our community undeniable. Here’s to Gary’s well-deserved retirement and continued success ahead!
Susquehannock High School Marching Band
A big round of applause to the Susquehannock High School Marching Band for clinching first place in the Liberty Open Division at the 2023 Cavalcade of Bands! With a stellar score of 94.750, its performance was nothing short of extraordinary, showcasing unparalleled talent and dedication.
It was an honor to extend congratulations alongside State Rep. Kate Klunk, presenting the band with a Senate Citation. Under the stellar direction of Christian Poole, the hard work and passion of the entire ensemble have undeniably paid off. Best wishes to the Susquehannock High School Marching Band for continued success ahead!
Thank You for Coming to my Agriculture Breakfast
This morning was truly special as we gathered for my second annual Agricultural Breakfast! While there will be more exciting content to share next week, I wanted to share my gratitude to all of those who participated.
Your dedication and hard work are the backbone of York County, and it never goes unnoticed. From nourishing our community to fostering economic growth, you play a vital role in our community. Here is to the remarkable impact of our farmers on York County – we appreciate you!
2023 Accomplishments: Cutting Red Tape
As 2024 kicks off, Senate Republicans will continue our work to cut red tape and improve the experience citizens have when they interact with their government and the agencies intended to help them.
Already this session, we have passed a bill that would improve government efficiency by authorizing the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to return unclaimed property without requiring the owners to search for it. Another legislative measure would ensure Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Medical Assistance benefits are not spent on the deceased.
For the Pennsylvanians who must apply for a permit, license or certification, another bill I am spearheading with Sen. Greg Rothman would require state agencies to create an accessible website to explain why a permit application was rejected and enable permit applicants to check their application status. It would also deem a permit, license or certification approved if the agency reviewing the application misses its deadline – giving Pennsylvanians far more predictability than they currently have. This change would also help to attract more business to the state and boost our economy by addressing unreasonable permit delays.
Protecting Against Hypothermia and Frostbite
While this winter has been relatively mild so far, colder weather could set in at any time. Brushing up on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite can help you keep yourself and others safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed information about warning signs and prevention.
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and confusion. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to death. If someone is experiencing hypothermia, give them warm water and replace any wet clothing with dry layers. Seek medical attention if their body temperature is below 95 degrees.
Frostbite is an injury that can permanently damage the body and typically impacts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. Symptoms include painful, unusually firm or waxy skin. If impacted, warm the affected area but do not apply pressure. Stay a safe distance from heat sources and know when to get medical care.
Mobile Office Goes to Penn Township Next Week!
As a reminder, my team will be stationed at the Penn Township Municipal Building next Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., prepared to provide assistance across a spectrum of state services.
One of those services is assisting with the Property Tax Rent Rebate Program!
This year, there have been important income changes made to the Pennsylvania Property Tax Rent Rebate Program. This change should expand the program to nearly 175,000 more Pennsylvania seniors.
I urge you to see if you would qualify under the new parameters. You can find more information out here. If you have any questions or concerns you can come see my team during mobile office hours or in the district office.
In addition, most homes and farms are eligible for property tax reduction under the Homestead Tax Exemption program.
Under a homestead or farmstead property tax exclusion, the assessed value of each homestead or farmstead is reduced by the same amount before the property tax is computed.
To receive school property tax relief for tax years beginning July 1 or Jan. 1, an application for homestead or farmstead exclusions must be filed by the preceding March 1. School districts are required to notify homeowners by Dec. 31 of each year if their property is not approved for the homestead or farmstead exclusion or if their approval is due to expire. Learn more and find an application.