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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Senate Democrats Budget Savings and Revenues Plan

In mid December, Pennsylvania’s Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, projected a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.  It is evident that our state will once again face a major budget challenge come June as a result of the Governor’s failure to develop a comprehensive and coherent economic plan to create jobs in Pennsylvania.  More alarming, it does not seem like this Administration has many specifics on how this shortfall will be addressed.  Pennsylvania cannot have another year of drastic budget cuts which has crippled the Commonwealth’s economy.

The Pennsylvania Senate Democrats recently released our budget savings and revenues plan.  Our proposal would generate $1.09 billion in combined savings and revenues to help offset the projected deficit.  In addition, our plan would allow our priorities for the state to remain the same – growing jobs, investing in education, strengthening our social safety net, and providing for long-term sustainability of Pennsylvania businesses and the families which those businesses employ. 

To view the Senate Democrat’s 10-point plan please click here.

It is evident that a Medicaid expansion for Pennsylvania would offer significant savings for the Commonwealth because of the federal funding that would be invested into our state.  As you may recall, Governor Corbett has instead chosen to embark on a different path – his Healthy PA Plan – that still needs federal approval which could delay implementation costing Pennsylvania millions in the meantime. 

Furthermore, despite tax revenue collections meeting expectations up until this point, the current trends of this administration are playing havoc with the state’s finances and are forecasted to extend into the future.  This is due to the number of working-age residents remaining the same for the rest of the decade while residents over the age of 65 will continue increasing by one-third.  These demographics will diminish tax revenues while at the same time placing additional pressures on programs that assist senior citizens.  The Commonwealth must act now to prevent an escalating deficit. 

Under Governor Corbett’s leadership, Pennsylvania has gone from eighth in the nation in terms of new job creation to 47th.  Continuing down this path will undermine the building blocks of our economy.  As we start the new year, Senate Democrats have identified ample revenues to not only deal with the significant budget deficit that has developed on the Governor’s watch, but we’ve also found resources to fund key job creation initiatives, education investments and safety net repairs that are needed as a result of short-sighted Administration policies. 

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Wednesday, January 1st in observance of the New Year’s holiday.  My offices will re-open on Thursday, January 2nd as scheduled.  I wish everyone a happy and safe New Year!

FAFSA Available on January 1st

PHEAA PHEAA As the Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), I want to encourage high school seniors and their families to prepare to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible after January 1st.  The FAFSA is the federal form that all students must submit to determine eligibility for most forms of need-based financial assistance, including the Pennsylvania State Grant, the Federal Pell Grant, work-study programs, the PA Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP), various scholarships, some school-based aid, and federal student loans.  The only way to find out if you qualify for awards is to complete and submit the FAFSA.  Students who are eligible for awards can reduce their family’s out-of-pocket expenses and make the cost of higher education more manageable.

Now is the time to get a jump on the application process by preparing before sitting down to complete the FAFSA application.  Students and families will be able to complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov and will need the following information when beginning the application process:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Student’s driver’s license
  • Alien registration number, if not a U.S. citizen
  • W-2 Forms
  • Records of untaxed income received, including workers’ compensation, child support, payments to tax-deferred pension and savings plans, etc.
  • Federal income tax return (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ)
  • Current bank statements and records of stocks, bonds, and other investments

The FAFSA can be submitted beginning January 1st and it is better to complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after that date as schools’ financial aid deadlines vary.

Did You Know…

Did you know that the U.S. Department of Education receives approximately 22 million FAFSA submissions each year?

Pennsylvania Farm Show

Farm ShowThe award-winning Pennsylvania Farm Show is scheduled from January 4 -11 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.  Admission to the farm show is free.  This year’s event will feature an all-star lineup of chefs, and local celebrities will entertain visitors as they create dishes from Pennsylvania-sourced products on the PA Preferred Culinary Connection Stage, which will feature a unique theme each day, offering visitors ideas for enjoying food produced in Pennsylvania.

For more information on the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show, please visit www.farmshow.state.pa.us.  The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Pittsburgh Cultural Trust First Night

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is once again producing First Night Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.  This year’s celebration marks the 20th Anniversary of First Night Pittsburgh and the 11th as a production of the Cultural Trust.  As the largest single-day celebration in the region, First Night offers approximately 150 events at nearly 50 indoor and outdoor locations within Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  This family-friendly event provides the city the opportunity to ring in the New Year with a bang while celebrating Pittsburgh’s First Night 2014 First Night rich cultural assets including dance, music, theater, comedy, magic, visual art and film.

First Night Pittsburgh kicks off at 6 p.m. with a fireworks show for children and concludes with the countdown to midnight, the raising of The Future of Pittsburgh Ball and another fireworks display at midnight.  To view the many activities taking place during First Night and for a full schedule of events, information on all-access admission buttons and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.firstnightpgh.org.

Tutors Needed

OASIS Pittsburgh will be hosting free training sessions for adults aged 50 and over who are interested in serving as tutors for students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools.  These training sessions will be held on OASISFebruary 5th and February 13th from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Macy’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh.  All materials, books and supplies will be provided by OASIS at no cost.

OASIS is a non-profit organization, founded in 1982, that is active in 40 cities across the country in promoting successful aging by providing opportunities for adults aged 50 and over to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives.  Their Intergenerational Tutoring Program trains older adults on tutoring children and provides older adults the chance to help students learn.  The program is operated in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.

For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please call John D. Spehar, OASIS Pittsburgh Tutoring Coordinator at 412-232-2021 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org.

Civil War Exhibit Closing January 5th

Heinz History CenterThere are only a few days left to view Pennsylvania’s Civil War at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District, before it closes on January 5th.  The exhibition provides visitors with an in-depth look at Pennsylvania’s significant role during the Civil War, featuring more than 150 artifacts, including items on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the National Civil War Museum.  The exhibition helps bring to life the personal stories of those impacted during the four-year war and was developed in partnership with PA Civil War 150, the statewide initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

For more information on the exhibition and the Heinz History Center, please visit them online at www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

Vote on New Home for Wholey’s Sign

WholeyCity of Pittsburgh Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto and Robert Wholey & Company President Jim Wholey announced last week they are seeking public input on where to move the Wholey’s Fish Market sign.  The 100 x 60-foot sign which has lit up the Federal Cold Storage Building in the Strip District for 25 years will come down as that building undergoes a renovation and will be converted to an apartment complex.

There are several ways for the public to put forth recommendations on where the sign should be relocated.  Individuals can stop in at Wholey’s in the Strip District and place their suggestion in one of the red boxes.  Suggestions can also be made on Twitter with the hashtag #smilingfish and can also be emailed to smilingfishsign@gmail.com.

Fontana Fact

NYE BallThe dropping of the New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square in New York City to signify the end of one year and the start of a new year has been a tradition over the years, viewed by the world.  In Pittsburgh, a new tradition has taken shape and for the sixth consecutive year, the start of a new year will be signified by the raising of The Future of Pittsburgh Ball above Penn Avenue Place.  Unlike in New York where the ball is lowered, in Pittsburgh The Future of Pittsburgh Ball is raised 150 feet which signifies a rising to the future.  The Ball weighs over 1,000 pounds and is over six feet in diameter, and is made from environmentally friendly materials, covered in more than 1,100 LED lights.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Oasis Heinz History Center Farm Show