Benefits of 529 College Savings Plans
As 2014 winds down, I want to make you aware of some of the benefits of opening or contributing to a Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program Account before December 31st. The PA 529 College Savings Program offers two distinct plans, the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP). Contributing to a 529 College Savings Account before the end of the year can help reduce your 2014 PA state taxable income while assisting a loved one pay for college.
Families who contribute before the end of this year can take advantage of Pennsylvania’s income tax deduction. Contributions up to $14,000 per beneficiary can be deducted from PA taxable income and married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $28,000 per beneficiary, provided each spouse has taxable income of at least the amount deducted. Additionally, earnings in a PA 529 plan are not subject to yearly taxes as they grow, and when used for qualified higher education expenses, earnings are tax-exempt when withdrawn.
To encourage more families to save for college in a tax-advantaged way, the PA 529 College Savings Program is offering free enrollment, a $50 savings, for all new Guaranteed Savings Plans (GSP) accounts opened by December 31st. Accounts can be opened online at www.PA529.com and when prompted use the enrollment code TAX2014.
The PA 529 GSP is designed to help savings grow to meet the future cost of education. When used for qualified higher education expenses, PA 529 GSP contributions grow at the rate of tuition inflation, subject to fees and premiums. For example, if you save enough for a semester at one of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education universities today, you will have enough for a semester there in the future, no matter when or how much tuition has gone up in the meantime.
Pennsylvania also offers a second option, the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), in which returns are based on financial market performance. The PA 529 IP features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options from The Vanguard Group, one of the nation’s largest financial services companies. There is no enrollment fee for the PA 529 IP.
To learn more about the PA 529 College Savings Program, or to open or contribute to a PA 529 GSP or PA 529 IP please visit www.PA529.com or call 1-800-440-4000.
Did You Know…
Did you know the Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program does not count against Pennsylvania state financial aid eligibility?
All Senate offices will be closed on Thursday, December 25th in observance of the Christmas holiday.
Whether you celebrate Christmas on December 25th, have been celebrating Hanukkah since December 16th or celebrate Kwanzaa beginning December 26th, I want to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and safe holiday season!
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline
I want to remind everyone that the deadline to file for a property tax or rent rebate through the PA Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is December 31st. Property tax/rent rebate applications must be postmarked no later than that day to be considered.
If you received a rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. If you did not receive 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. Act 156 of 2014, which I was happy to support, raises the income limits for seniors receiving a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), making more seniors eligible for the program. Now any homeowner with an annual income up to $35,298 for 2013 and who collects Social Security and received a rebate will continue to qualify. The same goes for renters with an annual income up to $15,128.
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will automatically review previous claim year 2013 applications where the rebate was denied for income in excess of $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. In the cases where a homeowner or renter’s overage is due only to a Social Security COLA, the department will re-open, process and then pay these claims. It has been estimated that approximately 6,000 seniors will now be protected from losing their rebate this fiscal year because of passage of Act 156, and up to nearly 9,000 by the 2016-17 fiscal year.
2015 Dog Licenses
State law requires all dogs in Pennsylvania, three months and older to be licensed by January 1st each year. All dog owners can now purchase 2015 licenses through the Allegheny County Treasurer's office. An annual dog license is $8.50 and a lifetime license is $51.50. If your dog is spayed or neutered, the annual fee is $6.50 and the lifetime fee is $31.50. Discounts on annual and lifetime licenses are also available to older adults and people with disabilities. You can download an application for an annual or lifetime dog license by clicking here.
License fees support the work of the Dog Law Enforcement Office, within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The Dog Law Enforcement Office is responsible for ensuring the welfare of dogs, regulating dangerous dogs and overseeing annual licensing and rabies vaccinations. If you suspect a dog is being mistreated and would like to register a complaint or a tip, please visit the Dog Law Enforcement Office page at www.agriculture.state.pa.us and complete the online complaint form. You may also contact the Dog Law Enforcement Office by phone at 717-787-3062.
Keeping Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Beautiful
In September and October of this year, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful worked with local groups and organizations to coordinate 440 events all across the Commonwealth during the 2014 International Coastal Cleanup. This year, nearly 13,000 volunteers from 50 counties in Pennsylvania canvassed their communities to remove 646,210 pounds of trash and debris from Pennsylvania’s waterways and coastal regions.
Throughout Pennsylvania, volunteers documented the trash that was picked up and among the most abundant types of trash found during the 2014 cleanup included the following:
- 27,489 cigarette butts
- 13,129 plastic beverage bottles
- 3,635 tires
- 2,438 plastic grocery bags
Statewide, volunteer participation increased this year by 31 percent from last year and the pounds of trash collected rose by 41 percent. Allegheny County had the most volunteers participate, 4,548, and collected the most trash at 288,950 pounds.
Congratulations and thanks to all the volunteers who played a role in 2014 in keeping Pennsylvania Beautiful! Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and its volunteers have removed over 111 million pounds of litter from Pennsylvania’s roadways, greenways, parks, forests, and waterways since 1990. To learn more about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful or to get involved please visit www.keeppabeautiful.org.
Strip District Honored
Last week, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA-APA) announced that the Strip District has been selected as one of four “Great Neighborhoods” in Pennsylvania as part of the PA-APA 2014 Great Places in Pennsylvania program.
The program, which launched earlier this year, recognizes unique and memorable neighborhoods and public spaces throughout Pennsylvania. According to the PA-APA, Great Neighborhoods and Public Spaces are unique, memorable places that work not only for their community, but as a model others want to emulate – places of exemplary character, quality, planning, identity, cultural interest, and community involvement with a sustainable vision for tomorrow.
In describing the Strip District in its announcement of the four Great Neighborhoods and three Great Public Spaces that were selected in Pennsylvania, the PA-APA said the following:
The Strip District is Pittsburgh’s only remaining historic market district. This old-world style marketplace is abuzz with shoppers patronizing wholesalers, fish/produce merchants, ethnic food shops, antique galleries, specialty shops, textile/interior design firms, and sidewalk vendors. Multi-generational family businesses sit side-by-side with small niche businesses passionate about their craft. Small businesses, as well as, innovative high-technology, marketing, public relations, and other professional firms, continue to gravitate to The Strip, making it a hub for job growth. Additionally, it offers residential properties, warehouses, a world-class museum, an international crafts gallery, a theater group, two historic churches and a variety of nightspots, ranging in style from upscale lounges to cozy pubs. Overall, it provides a captivating opportunity to explore an innovative re-imagining of obsolete urban industrial spaces.
Congratulations to Becky Rodgers, Executive Director of Neighbors in the Strip (NITS), for all her hard work in nominating the Strip to the PA-APA, and for the work her, the staff and the board of directors at NITS does all year to promote economic development opportunities, while preserving the personality, integrity and character of the Strip!
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is once again producing First Night Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve. This year’s celebration marks the 21st anniversary of First Night Pittsburgh and the 12th 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 the 14-block Cultural District. This family-friendly event provides the city the opportunity to ring in the New Year with a bang while celebrating Pittsburgh’s many rich cultural assets.
First Night Pittsburgh kicks off at 6 p.m. on December 31st with a children’s fireworks show and concludes with the countdown to midnight, and the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh Ball at midnight, with tons of fun in between. To view the many activities taking place during First Night and for a full schedule of events, shows and entertainment and information on all-access buttons please visit www.firstnightpgh.org.
When people think of inclines, the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines quickly come to mind. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s several other inclines were constructed around the region including one of the last ones to be constructed, the Norwood Incline in McKees Rocks. The Norwood Incline was built in 1901 by Charles Wesley Robison, who was selling home lots in the Norwood Plan and wanted to facilitate access to the hilltop. Rides were free and the incline ran from the lower station on Island Avenue to the upper station on Desiderio Avenue. In 1903, a penny was charged for a ride during peak hours giving the incline the nickname “Penny Incline.” Ongoing maintenance costs forced the incline to close in 1923.
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
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216