Senator Fontana addresses members of the Mid-Atlantic Region of Black Law Students Association (MABLSA) at their 2013 Regional Convention, held in Pittsburgh on February 16th. Senator Fontana served on a panel that discussed the issue of college accessibility and affordability. Also pictured with Senator Fontana are panelists, Representative Jake Wheatley and Scott Roberts, Campaign Coordinator for Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Program.
Economic Development and Business Start-up Legislation
Pennsylvania is the nineteenth largest economy in the world making our state a very attractive place for entrepreneurs to launch a business. However, newer businesses often need capital in order to build a company and banks often shy away from providing this necessary funding during the first few, high risk, years.
Last week, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation I authored that would give certain start-up businesses the tools they need to establish and grow in our state. Senate Bill 141 (SB 141) would use excess Keystone State Innovation Zone dollars to provide a 25 percent tax credit for so-called “angel” investors who provide early stage financing for businesses that are less than five years old. An angel investor is an individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.
Angel investors play a crucial role in the economy that few people are willing to fill. These types of investors make personal, high risk investments in start-up companies, as most banks and venture capitalists typically shy away from newer companies until they are safer and have more of a track record. More importantly, angel investments have the potential to create many good paying jobs.
My legislation is limited to businesses that are headquartered and operate in Pennsylvania and employ a majority of Pennsylvania workers among their workforce. Furthermore, mechanisms are put in place so that a new business will remain in our state for at least five years following application. The measure also encourages out-of-state investors by allowing them to sell unused tax credits to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
SB 141 was drafted to reflect language similar to Wisconsin’s successful seven-year-old program that has created nearly 1,000 jobs. Twenty six other states offer angel investment tax credit programs and it is my hope that my legislation can pass the Pennsylvania General Assembly quickly so that we can start attracting new companies to form in our state.
Angel investments not only provide critical funding to encourage new growth in projects, but also give back to our communities through job creation and supplying individuals with products and services they need on a daily basis, close to home.
The Finance Committee vote was an important first step. I am hopeful that by working with my colleagues, the bill will be brought up for a full Senate vote in the near future and move this important economic development proposal to the House for their consideration.
Did You Know…
Did you know according to the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research, nine of every 10 angel investments are devoted to start-ups with fewer than 20 employees and seven of every 10 angel investments are made locally?
Update on Lottery Privatization
In the January 15th edition of my News & Views I presented my concerns with the Governor’s decision to award a 20-year management contract to a British company to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery. Among my chief concerns with this agreement was the lack of legislative oversight and transparency from the Administration and how this foreign company could guarantee its promise of $34.6 billion in profits over the next two decades.
Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected the contract on Constitutional grounds. In the announcement, the Attorney General’s Office said that by agreeing to a contract with Camelot Global Services, PA, LLC, “the Executive Branch exceeded its authority under Article II, Section I of the Pennsylvania Constitution by unlawfully infringing on the General Assembly’s power to make basic policy choices regarding the management of the Lottery.” The Attorney General also said that this plan was an illegal expansion of gaming in the Commonwealth and that the plan involved an unconstitutional waiver of sovereign immunity.
I commend the Attorney General for her decision to reject the Governor’s Lottery privatization scheme on Constitutional grounds. Moving forward, if the Governor chooses to pursue this issue, I can only hope the process is more open and transparent. With Pennsylvania’s Lottery being one of the nation’s most profitable, and with proceeds from our Lottery being used to fund many important programs for our seniors, this asset should not be sold in a secretive, expedited manner.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2012 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you received a rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, the applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. The maximum standard rebate is $650.00 and the deadline to apply is June 30th.
I have written many times in recent weeks and months of the opportunities for assistance that are provided by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) for students and families considering a post-secondary education. PHEAA is a national provider of student financial aid services and as the Vice Chair of PHEAA’s Board of Directors, I am proud of the work we do in creating access to education for students all across the Commonwealth.
In January, I hosted a PHEAA Financial Aid Education Day where attendees learned about the financial aid process, specifically how to apply for state grants and loans, and scholarships. The presentation from the Financial Aid Education Day is available on my website, www.senatorfontana.com, if you are interested in learning more about what financial aid opportunities are available and which resources can assist in obtaining them.
Over the last 50 years, PHEAA has assisted millions of Pennsylvania students in affording a post-secondary education. While we continue these efforts to increase opportunities for students and families, it is equally important that colleges and universities keep tuition costs down and ensure that tuition increases are kept to a minimum. Over the last 25 years, tuition at public, four-year colleges has risen over 100%. This is a trend that cannot continue.
It is also important that students and families choose a post-secondary school that they can afford and one that provides a good value. College graduates typically amass some student loan debt but nearly one in 50 graduate with more than $100,000 in student loan debt. Unaffordable debt will significantly affect a student’s lifestyle after graduation.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama announced a new tool available to students and families that can help determine what schools are both affordable and provide a solid return on investment. The "College Scorecard", can be viewed by clicking on the previous link, or by visiting www.whitehouse.gov. This online tool, provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, allows students and families to learn more about a particular college’s affordability and value, so a more informed decision about which college to attend can be made. I encourage students and families that are currently considering a post-secondary education to visit this site to ensure you are choosing a college or university that is both affordable and provides good value.
FAFSA Completion Assistance
I want to again remind students and families of the free help that is available when applying for financial assistance for college. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is offering Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Sessions across the Commonwealth through April for families with students planning to attend college. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for most need-based financial assistance, which include Pennsylvania State Grants, Federal Pell Grants, work-study programs, many scholarships and school-based aid, and low-cost federal student loans.
To view a list of the FAFSA Completion Sessions taking place around the Commonwealth, please visit the FAFSA Completion Help page on PHEAA's website. PHEAA has also partnered with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) to offer these sessions at library branches throughout the city on upcoming Saturdays. Below is the remaining schedule for FAFSA Saturdays:
February 23 – CLP pop-up, Allentown (412-622-3319)
March 2 – CLP Brookline (412-561-1003)
March 9 – CLP Knoxville (412-381-6543)
March 23 – CLP Main-Oakland (412-622-3133)
April 20 – CLP Homewood (412-731-3080)
April 27 – CLP East Liberty (412-363-8232)
For more information and to register for one of these FAFSA Saturdays sessions, please call the library location or visit www.clpgh.org.
SBDC Outreach Day
I want to remind constituents that the next Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Outreach Day is scheduled for next Tuesday, 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.
Day Student Program at Valley Forge
For the first time in its 85-year history, the Valley Forge Military College has instituted a day student program for Pennsylvania veterans and members of the National Guard and Army Reserve. This program allows those who have served their country to attend Valley Forge as a day student at less than half the normal cost. Depending on an individual’s situation, the total cost of attendance can often be covered by military benefits. If you are interested in the day program and would like additional information, please call 610-989-1302, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vfmac.edu.
Keystone Society for Tourism
The Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism (PATT) and the Pennsylvania Tourism Office are seeking nominations for the Keystone Society for Tourism. The Keystone Society for Tourism was established to recognize and honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to tourism in the Commonwealth.
Nominations may be submitted from a wide variety of partners including but not limited to: destination managers; tourism and hospitality professionals; hospitality industry educators; community and economic development leaders; sole proprietors; main street, elm street or heritage area managers; chamber of commerce leaders; mayors; city council members; county commissioners; and other elected officials.
Inductees to the Keystone Society for Tourism will be presented with an original work of art from one of the Commonwealth’s finest artists and will have their name inscribed on a plaque to be displayed permanently in the offices of the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
The nomination form can be downloaded and printed at www.patravelandtourism.org. Nomination forms must be received by PATT no later than the close of business on April 5th. Nomination forms can be mailed to PATT at:
PA Association of Travel and Tourism
Attention: Abby Howard
126 Walnut Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
For additional information on the Keystone Society for Tourism and the nominating process, please contact Abby Howard at email@example.com.
Presidents’ Day is celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday each February. The holiday was originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington’s birthday and was celebrated on February 22nd, Washington’s actual birthday. The holiday became known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971. Presidents’ Day is now viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
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1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216