In this update:
Senate Appropriations Committee concludes first week of budget hearings
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee held seven public hearings on the state budget proposal offered by Governor Wolf. The committee heard from the Department of Revenue, the Pennsylvania Lottery, the Independent Fiscal Office, the Public Utility Commission, the Department of State, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, State Police, Homeland Security, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and State Fire Commissioner.
I sat down to give a quick update on the importance of these hearings and how I am using these opportunities with the heads of the various state agencies and departments to ask questions that are important to the residents of the 28th Senatorial District. Please take a moment to watch my short video below:
Here are some of the key points I focused on this past week with the various state agencies and departments:
Department of Revenue
At Tuesday’s hearing with the Department of Revenue and Pennsylvania Lottery, I asked Secretary Hassel of Revenue about the potential for increasing income caps for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program as well as anticipated job losses from the governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage.
Independent Fiscal Office
Matthew Knittel, Director of the Independent Fiscal Office, and I discussed the use of “special funds” in the governor’s budget proposal.
We need more information on what happens to the money in special funds and how other states rely on special funds as budget sources. (The issue of “special funds” and the “shadow budget” was part of my latest op-ed I submitted to the York Daily Record/York Sunday News – read that here.)
Public Utility Commission
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Pat Browne. I asked the commissioners about what the PUC can do for the estimated 11 million Pennsylvania residents without access to high-speed internet, as well as concerns that have arisen as a result of the Transource power line project.
Department of State
During the Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with the Department of State on Wednesday, I questioned Acting Secretary Kathy Boockvar about what is being done to streamline the state licensing process, and emphasized the need to inform license-seekers on how to navigate the process.
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
I raised concerns about student debt and return on investment with our Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education during Thursday morning’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with Chancellor Greenstein. I also asked about the regulatory burdens the State System deals with that could be addressed to allow the system to adapt and build the workforce of tomorrow.
Read more about my concerns here.
State Police/Homeland Security
I asked whether statewide emergency radio towers being decommissioned could be used to increase community access to high-speed internet, and sought the Pennsylvania State Police’s input on efforts to combat human trafficking during Thursday’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency/State Fire Commissioner
During our final Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing on Thursday with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, I raised concerns to Acting Director Randy Padfield about the governor’s recent emergency declarations restricting commercial vehicles on major roads and the impact those closures have had on businesses that can’t get goods to market.
You can view summaries, videos and recaps of each state budget hearing here.
Launching “Kristin’s Corner” – A podcast on local & state issues launches today
I am proud to announce a new tool to help community residents learn more about what is happening in state government. This week I launched a new podcast in an effort to connect with more residents on state-related issues.
I realize you and your families have hectic work and home schedules that make it difficult to stay up-to-date on state government news. This podcast will allow you – the residents of the 28th Senatorial District – to get a quick update on state news whenever it is most convenient for you.
For my first podcast update, I wanted to highlight an important issue I hear about on a daily basis and have been working to address – school property tax elimination. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to my update. Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to provide updates on this topic as well as other critical issues affecting your state government. Listen to my first podcast here.
You can learn more about “Kristin’s Corner” here. You can also check out my podcast on SoundCloud at www.soundcloud.com/SenatorKristin.
I look forward to finding more creative ways to connect with you!
YDR Column: Bringing the Shadow Budget into Public Light
Earlier this week, the York Daily Record/York Sunday News printed my op-ed, titled “Bringing the Shadow Budget into Public Light.”
The op-ed highlights the use of special funds that functions as a “shadow budget.” This issue was the focus of my Q&A with the Independent Fiscal Office.
I had one Manchester Township resident recently ask me about a $1.65 per month tax he noticed on his cell phone bill that goes to the 911 Fund. His simple request: make it easier to follow the money so he can see how his tax dollars are spent. I agree!
I believe we should work together as Republicans and Democrats to bring our financial accounting system into an area where the average taxpayer can see exactly where their state tax dollars go. The hardworking residents of our great state deserve nothing less.
You can read the op-ed in its entirety here.
Supporting tourism, agriculture and manufacturing in YoCo
Last week, I had a great meeting with Bill Mathias of Old Republic Distillery and Laura Gurreri and Christina Smith from the York County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau/Explore York PA about the history of whiskey in York County and the Keystone Craft Spirits Trail.
Tourism, along with agriculture and manufacturing, is one of the top industries in Pennsylvania. York County has several dedicated professionals who are working hard to support these industries in our own backyard.
You can learn more here.
Theodore Blevins of Troop 28 earns Eagle Scout
Congratulations to Theodore Blevins of Troop 28 in Red Lion on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout! It was an honor for Kevin Eck of Rep. Stan Saylor’s office and me to join his family, friends, and fellow scouts to celebrate his significant achievement!
Theodore, the son of Mark and Lana Blevins, designed, assembled, and installed a new walking path for visitors, including stairs, platforms, and a stone pathway at the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Village for his Eagle Scout community service project. Well done, Teddy!
REAL ID pre-verification event in New Freedom on March 4
With REAL IDs about to be made available in Pennsylvania, I’m teaming up with Representatives Kate Klunk (R-Hanover) and Mike Jones (R-York Township) to host an event to assist residents with pre-verifying documents required to obtain a REAL ID.
The event will be held at the New Freedom Community Center, located at 150 E. Main St. in New Freedom, on Monday, March 4, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Learn more about our upcoming event here.
Dialing in on higher education’s return on investment in PA
One budget hearing that stood out to me was with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
York County business owners tell me they need employees with the skills to fill job vacancies throughout the county and the Commonwealth.
We have colleges and universities offering degrees that don’t have a promising job outlook after graduation. Are we graduating the next workforce of tomorrow or are we saddling graduates with very expensive diplomas and limited ways to pay for them?
York College is doing some interesting things to adapt and change to the demands of students and employers. York College is graduating students with degrees that lead to jobs that can pay off those diplomas and then some. They offer a solid return on investment for their students.
PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein indicated that the system is using data to track and adapt their programs and course offerings based on the demands of the workforce in Pennsylvania.
Read more about the budget hearing with PASSHE here.
The Senate Appropriations Committee resumes its public hearings on the state budget on Monday, February 25 at 10 a.m.