In this update:
Over the coming weeks and months as we head into spring, I plan to host several outreach events for community residents. As always, I will continue to share all of the public events we will host in the hopes that they are helpful to you.
I also have every event posted to my Facebook Page under the “Events” tab. Not on Facebook? It’s okay, you can still see the details of every event there. Click here to see all of my upcoming events.
March 2 at 6 p.m. – Telephone town hall
On Monday, March 2 from 6-7 p.m., I will host a telephone town hall to give you the latest update on the state budget, where we stand with efforts to eliminate school property taxes and other important legislative matters. However, this is your event. I will give a brief update, but flip the microphone to you and ask you for your questions and your feedback.
This event will provide you with the opportunity to ask me questions about the various issues critical to you. As always, telephone town hall or not, you can always reach out to me via email (yes, you can reply to this email, I read them!) or fill out a contact form on my website.
Sign up to make sure you receive a call from me – calls will go out around 5:55 p.m. on Monday. If you have a cell phone, you need to sign up here.
I look forward to talking to you!
March 4 at 9 a.m. – Property Tax/Rent Rebate application assistance in New Freedom with Rep. Klunk
I look forward to continuing to assist local residents with one of the state’s most popular programs – the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program.
Staff from Representative Kate Klunk (R-York) and my office will be available to assist local citizens with applications at the South Central York County Senior Center, located at 150 East Main Street in New Freedom on Wednesday, March 4 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
The program receives its funding from the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue generated from slot machines.
Learn more about this program, all upcoming events offering staff assistance, and the income eligibility guidelines here.
March 5 at 9 am. – Mobile Office Hours in Fawn Grove
To make your state Senate more accessible to you, our office will host its monthly mobile office on Thursday, March 5 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Citizens Volunteer Fire Company, located at 171 S Market St, Fawn Grove, PA 17321.
Our office is mobile on the first, second and third Thursday of every month to better connect with you in your community. Learn more here.
March 5 at 10 a.m. – Consumer Protection event in Springfield Township with Rep. Grove
Next week is National Consumer Protection Week across the United States. Representative Seth Grove (R-York) and I will host a representative from the Attorney General’s office to assist with questions and receive guidance on how to best safeguard against fraud, scams and identity theft.
You can stop by our office at 6872 Susquehanna Trail South, York, PA 17403 between 10 a.m. at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 5 to speak with a representative.
28th District to receive over $1 million in school safety grants
I was pleased to see every public school district in the 28th Senatorial District, along with the Lincoln Charter School, receive funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. No school received less than $40,000 for school safety purposes.
The district received over $1.4 million in school safety funding.
Ensuring the safety and protection of students, teachers and administrators is important for every school and I am pleased to see every school district receive funding under this program.
Unfortunately, Governor Wolf is seeking a $45 million cut to this program in the budget for next year. However, I believe the safety of our children should be a much higher priority.
Read more about this announcement here.
Budget hearings recap
The Senate Appropriations Committee concluded its second week of hearings reviewing the governor’s proposed 2020-2021 state budget. My reaction to his proposal is available here.
If you want a quick overview of the second week of state budget hearings, the video below is for you.
As always, I included a link for every question I asked this past week. I hope you find this to be informative and helpful in making your state government more transparent. You can view all of the Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings, including a brief recap, here.
Department of Labor and Industry – costly mandates could have saved PA $700M over 10 years
On Monday, Secretary Oleksiak of the Department of Labor and Industry testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
I had two questions for him:
The state currently requires all school districts and local governments to comply with prevailing wage mandates for construction projects. Ohio eliminated the requirement for school districts and through a non-partisan study, they found it saved approximately 10 percent of their construction budget.
I asked Secretary Oleksiak what it would mean to Pennsylvania taxpayers and school districts if we provided the option for school boards to opt-out of prevailing wage requirements. I found that if Pennsylvania could realize similar savings by a percent, taxpayers and school districts would have realized $700 million in savings between 2000-2010. I wrote legislation that would give schools, and municipal governments, the option to opt-out of these costly mandates to better serve their taxpayers and constituency.
Based on a question I received from Karen in Windsor Township, I also asked about workforce development and training programs that are available outside of traditional colleges and universities.
You can watch our entire discussion below.
Auditor General – concerns over voter registration integrity and cybersecurity
An audit from the Auditor General showed that there are many issues with the state’s voter registration system, also known as the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE.
One part of his audit caught my attention:
“Data analysis identified tens of thousands of potential duplicate and inaccurate voter records, as well as nearly three thousand records for potentially deceased voters that need to be verified.”
I asked him about his audit that showed that thousands of deceased voters could still be on our rolls. I also asked about cybersecurity as a part of his audits.
Department of Aging – will a minimum wage increase affect health care costs?
I raised concerns with Secretary Torres of the Department of Aging about the governor’s proposed minimum wage hike and its impact on health care providers, as well as a declining number of available beds within nursing homes across the state. You can watch our discussion below.
Liquor Control Board – are our state liquor stores modernizing to reflect consumer trends?
The Board members of the Liquor Control Board (LCB) appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. I asked about the percentage of sales that are conducted online and whether LCB is working to upgrade its e-commerce system to meet the demands of consumers.
You can watch our Q&A below.
I also asked the LCB about the percentage of sales made with credit and debit cards and how LCB works to reduce fees given that 67 percent of all sales in state stores is made by credit and the LCB reported sales in excess of $2.6 billion. You can watch below.
PennDOT – finish the Mt. Rose interchange project and never let contractor bid on another PA project
The Mt. Rose Interchange project debacle keeps me up at night and, as I learned this week, it keeps up the Acting Secretary of PennDOT as well.
I asked her when the project will be completed and how we can hold the contractor – Cherry Hill and parent company Tutor Perini – accountable. I also shared my frustration that this specific contractor is widely known in the construction industry for change order scheming – when you submit a low bid and tack on costs and delays. Other states have had similar results that we are seeing play out with the Mt. Rose Interchange debacle.
Our statute requires bids to go to the lowest and most responsible. While they may have been the lowest, I would hardly classify them as responsible.
Watch our discussion below.
The York Dispatch agreed with my stance in their Friday editorial, which you can read here.
Treasury – asking for an update on the Transparency Portal – a website to look at state finances
During Tuesday’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with the Treasury, I wanted to know if General Fund short-term borrowing and cash flow fluctuations were common practice. I commended the state Treasurer on his efforts to provide transparency in documenting state spending.
I also asked Treasurer Torsella about efforts to monitor compliance with the state’s Unclaimed Property Program and the outcome of changes to the program.
Department of Human Services – raising questions about a $3M proposed line item for Planned Parenthood
Thank you to the many citizens who contacted me with concerns over a new line item that appeared in Governor Wolf’s budget proposal under the Department of Human Services for $3 million for “Access to Reproductive Health Care.” I share those concerns and asked Secretary Miller of the department to clarify this new budget request and where the money would go and what it would be used for.
She said the money will go to – and only go to – Planned Parenthood.
I reiterated that with $3 million in funding for Planned Parenthood coupled with a $45 million cut to school safety in this budget is a very dangerous precedent.
You can watch our discussion below.
I also sought assurances from Secretary Miller that the administration has dropped its plan to raise taxes on local ambulatory service centers, which save tax dollars and provide a vital service to its patients.
Department of Health – are we prepared for the Coronavirus?
During Wednesday’s budget hearing with the Department of Health, we discussed the Coronavirus and I also asked for assurances that that personal information would not be shared when collecting prescription drug data after the governor signed my Act 8 of 2020 into law earlier this year.
Watch our discussion below.
Department of Education – unfunded state mandates lead to higher school property taxes
The governor called for all day kindergarten in his budget proposal, but has not suggested how the Commonwealth (or you – the taxpayer) will pay for it.
Unfunded mandates from state government lead to higher school property taxes for homeowners.
As a former school director and current legislator, I know how much damage these unfunded mandates can do to budgets and taxpayers.
I also picked up on my line of questioning from Monday where I asked about prevailing wage mandates and what it means to school district budgets. Under my bill, school directors, borough councils and township supervisors should be allowed to make this decision and my legislation would give them the option to decide. Watch our discussion below.
Department of Community and Economic Development – more oversight and safeguards are needed for state grants and tax credits
During our final hearing for the week, I raised concerns about the state’s oversight of tax credit and grants programs after reports have shown that taxpayer dollars were misused or squandered.
This is an important issue, which is why I hope you will watch the clip below that is almost 9 minutes. I outlined several grant programs that have been abused, and my frustration that we all pay fees out of our phone bills to deploy broadband in underserved areas, but have not seen the results. I want provisions in place to allow the state to “clawback” those grants if state tax dollars are misused and/or abused, which is why I introduced Senate Bill 1034 earlier this month.
PennDOT maintenance schedule for next week
You can view next week’s maintenance schedule below.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will reconvene on Monday, March 2 at 10 a.m. to continue its public hearings on the state budget. If you want to follow along, please watch on my Facebook and Twitter for videos, comments and other news you may find interesting regarding your state budget.
Below is our agenda for next week.