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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Budget Proposal for 2013-14

Sen. Fontana’s Reaction following Gov. Corbett's Budget Address. :: Watch Video

Last Tuesday, Governor Corbett announced his 2013-14 budget proposal.   Since 2011, the Governor has made drastic and deep cuts to many essential state programs and services, which has contributed to Pennsylvania’s recent trend of growing unemployment and slow crawl out of an economic recession.  Although Governor Corbett’s most recent state plan contains the restoration of some reductions from previous years, the majority of the Governor’s proposal is based on unsure funding sources and the uncertain passage of privatizing state programs.

Overall, Governor Corbett has announced a plan that calls for a $28.4 billion budget, which represents an increase of $400 million, or 1 percent, from the budget in place when he took office in 2011.  Here are some of the highlights: 

Early Education

Funding for early education programs increased by approximately $11 million:  $5 million for early intervention programs, $4.5 million for Pre-K Counts, and $1.9 million for Head Start. 

Basic Education – K-12

Under the Governor’s plan, basic education funding would increase $90 million as well as an allocation of $224 million for schools’ increasing retirement costs.

This proposal also marks the first time that the Governor has proposed funding for the Education Block Grant, which the Legislature has wrangled him into funding the last two budgets.  The $100 million earmarked for the block grant during this upcoming fiscal year is about what has been allocated in the last two budgets. 

However, many aspects of funding for basic education are tied to such things as pension reform and privatizing Pennsylvania’s state store system.  If the Governor is successful in selling off the liquor business to private companies, only then would Pennsylvania schools be eligible for $1 billion in grants over the next four years to use towards school safety, improve early education, individualized learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming.

Furthermore, the Governor’s plan diverts new teacher hires from the traditional pension system into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan and changes how benefits are calculated for current employees starting in 2015.  While those changes would not take effect in the next fiscal year, the plan would reduce state expenses immediately and would save $175 million for the state and $138 million for school districts next year.  However, if a plan is not passed, the state will not have the $175 million to spend and will have to find an additional $175 million to cut. 

Sen. Fontana ’s floor remarks about the 2013-14 Budget

Higher Education

Under the Governor’s proposal, funding for state-owned universities, state-related universities and community colleges would remain the same as last year’s funding levels with an allocation of $1.2 billion.  As you may recall, under Governor Corbett’s 2011 budget, state-owned and state-related universities endured a 20 percent funding cut. 

Human Service Programs

About $40 million is being proposed for services that help people with intellectual and physical disabilities live independently under the Governor’s plan.

The budget includes an increase of $7 million for child care services and $8.5 million to enroll an additional 9,300 uninsured children in the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

This budget will provide an additional $50 million in Lottery Funds for such programs as Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), Attendant Care Services, modernize facilities and senior centers, and increase services for individuals served through the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Aging Waiver.   However, the fate of these proposals depends upon the uncertainty of what will occur should the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery be outsourced to the British corporation Camelot.

Transportation

The Governor’s budget also proposes the biggest tax revenue increase of his tenure:  the lifting of the $1.25 per gallon Oil Company Franchise tax.  The cap will be lifted over five years, and partially offset by two 1-cent-per-gallon reductions of the state motor fuels tax in each of the next two years. 

In a cost-saving effort, the budget also calls for vehicle registrations to be switched to biennial from annual, and driver’s licenses issued for six years instead of the current four year license. 

Following a full phase in of the Governor’s proposed transportation plan, these changes are anticipated to generate $1.8 billion in new revenue with $550 million available in the 2013-14 fiscal year, funds that can go towards things like roads, bridges and mass transit. 

As I have highlighted, Governor Corbett’s proposed 2013-14 budget is just a starting point based upon the premise of several hypothetical maneuvers occurring before the funding source is available for many of the programs he outlined.  There is a lot of improvement that needs to take place in the coming months.  One of the biggest areas that needs to be reevaluated is the Governor’s agenda to privatize and link so many state programs and their funding to the implementation of selling off state assets.  In other words, the Governor’s plan has no guarantees that major programs and services will actually receive the proposed increases in allocations.  

Furthermore, Governor Corbett’s rejection to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania under the auspices of the federal Affordable Care Act will leave hundreds of thousands of individuals and families without health insurance and the budget proposal has not taken into consideration how to assist these citizens going forward.  We should take advantage of the federal government’s willingness to cover the cost of the expansion to assist our most vulnerable populations – primarily the disabled and elderly.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, February 18th in observance of Presidents’ Day.  My offices will re-open on Tuesday, February 19th as scheduled.

“Honoring Our Veterans” License Plates

License PlateA new license plate is now available to vehicle owners in Pennsylvania that will offer a way to show support for veterans.  The new “Honoring Our Veterans” license plates feature those words along with an image of the American flag and a bald eagle.  The plate is available for passenger cars and light trucks up to 10,000 pounds and costs $35.  For every “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate that is purchased, $15 will go to the Veterans Trust Fund, which will be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

In 2012, I co-sponsored legislation that authorized these license plates and created the Veterans Trust Fund.  This fund will provide grants for programs or projects that support Pennsylvania’s veterans, provide assistance to veterans in need of shelter or other necessities, and provide assistance to operate, maintain and repair monuments that honor Pennsylvania veterans and service members.

To purchase an “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate, please visit the Special Fund Plates page on PennDOT’s website to download an application.  You may also request an application from any of my district offices.

Did You Know…

Did you know according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, there are over 980,000 veterans currently living in Pennsylvania?

Veterans Event

Veterans Leadership ProgramThe Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center (ENEC) is sponsoring an event for veterans featuring Karen Payne, the career advisor and case manager at the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania. The event is scheduled for tomorrow, February 13th at the ENEC beginning at 11 a.m.  The ENEC is located at 5321 Penn Avenue.

Ms. Payne will present the Veterans Leadership Program’s services that support veterans’ needs including:  housing assistance for veterans; employment programs; job search assistance; vocational counseling; resume preparation; and supportive services for transportation, clothing and tools.

To register for the event, please contact the ENEC at 412-362-8580.  You can also learn more about the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania on their website at www.vlpwpa.org.

SBDC Outreach Day

sbdcThe next Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Outreach Day is scheduled for February 26th.  This is a free service that allows entrepreneurs to get help starting a small business or improving an existing business.  SBDC Client Services Liaison John Dobransky will again be at my Kennedy Office (Kenmawr Plaza) to provide assistance between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  You may schedule an appointment with John by calling 412-624-2290.  Appointments are not required but are encouraged and both new and returning clients are welcome.

Summer Environmental Careers Camp for Students

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)Students in grades 10 – 12 who are interested in pursuing environmental careers are invited to apply for a spot in the Exploring Careers Outdoor Camp (ECO Camp).  The six-day camp begins Sunday, July 7th and is organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).  The camp, in its 11th year, will be held at Kirby Episcopal House and Chapel in Luzerne County, near Nescopeck State Park.

ECO Camp will introduce between 20 and 25 students to conservation and environmental careers by exposing them to a wide range of career experiences including: water quality assessments; geology field studies; and overnight camping experiences.  Daily activities will offer students a hands-on, team-building learning experience in an outdoor setting.  Students will also have the chance to meet conservation professionals and learn about career opportunities.

The ECO Camp is free but applications must be submitted by April 15th.  For more details and to obtain an application, please visit the Exploring Careers Outdoors page on DCNR’s website.  You may also call 717-783-4356 or email ECO_Camp@state.pa.us.

Food Bank Hosting Empty Bowls Dinner

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food BankThe Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is holding the 18th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner on Sunday, March 10th at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland, from 2 – 6 p.m.  The dinner is a simple meal of soup and bread that serves to remind everyone of those in our communities who struggle to feed their families.

The family-friendly event will feature strolling musicians, a magician, and children’s activities along with notable personalities serving soup to attendees.  Each ticket holder chooses a ceramic bowl from over 1,200 on display, handmade by professional and amateur potters from our region.  There is also a silent auction of the “bowls of the ball” and the “Celebrity Bowls Auction.”

The Empty Bowls Dinner attracts over 1,200 people and in 17 years has raised over $500,000 to fight hunger in our communities.  All proceeds from the Empty Bowls Dinner benefit the Food Bank and Just Harvest.  Tickets can be purchased at the door, or in advance by visiting the Food Bank's website.  If you are interested in donating bowls to the event, please call Ken Regal at Just Harvest at 412-431-8960.

University of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh Pitt to Host Career Fair

The University of Pittsburgh's Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance is hosting a two-day Career Fair on February 19th and 20th.  The Career Fair is open to all Pitt students and alumni.  More than 160 employers from across the nation, representing a wide variety of industries will be on hand at the William Pitt Union from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day to talk about full-time, part-time, and internship opportunities.  If you are a Pitt alumnus or current student and are interested in attending, please visit www.careers.pitt.edu for more information.

Local Girls and Boys Basketball Teams Advance to Playoffs

With the high school basketball regular season coming to an end, several teams from the district have qualified for the W.P.I.A.L playoffs. 

On the girls’ side in Class AA, Seton-La Salle qualified by winning Section 4.  Bishop Canevin finished 2nd in Section 4 and also earned a playoff berth.  Carlynton, tied for 3rd in Section 6 also made the playoffs.  Cornell advanced to the Class A playoffs, tying for 2nd in Section 1.  In Class AAAA, Chartiers Valley and Baldwin both advanced to the playoffs from Section 4 and Keystone Oaks advanced to the Class AAA playoffs out of Section 5.

On the boys’ side in Class AAA, Chartiers Valley and Montour have qualified out of Section 5 with Chartiers Valley winning the Section and Montour finishing 2nd.  In Class AA, Seton-La Salle qualified after winning Section 4.  Bishop Canvein and Brentwood also qualified from Section 4.  Sto-Rox secured a playoff berth after winning Section 6 and Northgate also qualified.

The City League regular season wraps up this week.  The W.P.I.A.L. will announce pairings for the girls and boys tournaments tonight.  Congratulations to all the playoff teams and best of luck in the playoffs!

Fontana Fact

Groundhog DayOn February 2nd, Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil celebrated his 127th year of predicting the upcoming weather.  The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club made their first trip to Gobbler’s Knob to witness Phil’s forecast in 1887.  Today, crowds of more than 20,000 make the trip to Punxsutawney, approximately 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to be on hand as Phil exits his burrow to predict either six more weeks of winter or that spring is just around the corner.   This year, for the second time in three years, Phil did not see his shadow, meaning of course that spring is just around the corner! 

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
Rivers Casino Pennsylvania Treasury Department PLCB PUC Rivers Casino Pennsylvania Treasury Department PLCB
PUC Uptown Partners Rivers Casino Pennsylvania Treasury Department PLCB Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center (SBDC) DCNR Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank