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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Governor Corbett’s Mid-Year Budget Deficit

Vote PA The annual mid-year budget briefing took place last week that provides legislative leaders with the economic and budget outlook for the rest of the fiscal year.  Due to the recent win by Governor-elect Tom Wolf, this was the Corbett Administration’s last briefing on this matter and thankfully so.  As predicted, Governor Corbett’s enacted failed policies has ultimately led the state down the road to a nearly $2 billion projected deficit. 

The briefing highlighted what Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office recently projected, that the structural budget deficit will top $1.8 billion and maybe more for the upcoming budget season.  This is especially alarming since the administration was forced to borrow $700 million from Treasury just three months after the 2014-15 budget passed because the state’s main bank account balance dropped below zero. In November, an additional $750 million was taken out of this same fund for the same reason. Now, the state is faced with a zero balance of what was once $1.5 billion in reserves meant to be available for the rest of the fiscal year. 

Budgets are about choices and priorities.  Pennsylvania’s impending budget crisis is a result of bad choices and misguided priorities by the governor and majority Republicans. Governor Corbett signed a budget in July that was balanced with more than $2 billion in one-time spending, drawing down special accounts such as the lottery, tobacco, and oil-gas lease fund with expenditures that outstrip its revenue. 

In addition, the current situation is the result of this administration’s failed policies and an ideology that did not deliver the promised results. For example, Pennsylvania going from ninth to dead last among all states in job creation in four years demonstrates how little attention has been paid to the actual state of Pennsylvania’s economy.  We need to focus on a state budget that strengthens Pennsylvania’s ability to invest in job creation, education and expanding Medicaid.   

Despite having complete control of the executive and legislative branches, this administration clearly demonstrates what happens when you don’t work in a bi-partisan fashion and instead give billions in tax cuts to corporate friends at the expense of the middle class.  Now, Governor Corbett gets to escape the mess he created and it will be up to Governor-elect Wolf to clean up and get our economy back on track again and thriving. 

LIHEAP is Open

LIHEAP LIHEAP The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is now accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The program helps low income families pay their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website.  You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website.  Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.

Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.  The income limits for this season are as follows:

Household Size

Income Limit

1

$17,505

2

$23,595

3

$29,685

4

$35,775

5

$41,865

6

$47,955

7

$54,045

8

$60,135

9

$66,225

10

$72,315

After your application is received, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive.  Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel dealer and are credited to your account.  For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Reminder

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 by that day to be considered.

Tax formIf 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.

 

Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment

November 15th marked the beginning of open enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace, www.healthcare.gov.  Anyone in Pennsylvania seeking coverage for January 1st must be enrolled by December 15th.  Open enrollment concludes on February 15th.  When applying or renewing your coverage in the health insurance marketplace, you will need to provide some information about you and your household, including income and any insurance coverage you currently have.

Healthcare.gov Like last year, anyone seeking coverage and needing assistance with enrolling can enter their address or zip code at www.healthcare.gov and view a listing of organizations with individuals who have been trained to assist customers.  The listing will include all organizations located in proximity to your home that can assist. Also listed will be their hours of operation and contact information.

One change from last year is anyone seeking coverage can now view 2015 marketplace plans and prices prior to applying.  You may also sign up to receive text message alerts and updates about the marketplace on the website.  To begin looking for coverage on the marketplace, you can visit www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.  If you or someone you know needs assistance and does not have a computer, my staff will be happy to assist in locating an organization nearby that can offer guidance in the enrollment process.

New Fishing License Buttons

Fish and Boat Fish & Boat Last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began selling fishing license buttons for the 2015 season.  The fishing license buttons were brought back by popular demand earlier in 2014 by the PFBC and more than 6,500 were sold.  These buttons are similar to the ones the PFBC offered in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.  Each button measures 1 ¾ inches with a high-quality, pin-back design and features the angler’s customer identification number, the same number displayed on a paper license.  As a result of a recent regulation change, a valid button is the only display requirement as long as the angler is carrying a valid paper license.

The buttons, which went on sale December 1st, are available for $5 each.  They can be purchased through the PFBC’s online store, any of the PFBC’s regional offices and through a network of license issuing agents that can be accessed by clicking here.  Individuals must purchase an annual or multi-year resident, non-resident or senior resident fishing license in order to purchase a license button.  Buttons can also be purchased for children 15 and under who purchase a voluntary youth license for $1.  For more information on fishing license buttons please visit www.fish.state.pa.us/.

The Aging Institute

The Aging Institute Help and Referral Line is a free service available to anyone, regardless of location, level of need or insurance affiliation to help older adults, caregivers, family members, and the community get connected with the resources they need. 

Aging InstituteThis service can assist with identifying community resources for older adults and caregivers, providing caregiver support, coordinating care options, and offering healthy aging tips for seniors, and much more.  The Aging Institute also provides educational classes for caregivers and individuals providing personal care to older adults on a daily basis.  These classes provide caregivers with the knowledge and information needed to reduce stress, communicate more effectively with family and healthcare providers, deal with difficult feelings, make tough decisions and solve problems.  The educational classes and presentations also offer opportunities to network with other caregivers who can share resources and provide support.

To learn more about these services and educational programs, please call 1-866-430-8742 or visit the Aging Institute online.

First Night

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Pittsburgh Cultural Trust 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 and 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.

Did You Know…

Did you know that First Night Pittsburgh attracts nearly 50,000 visitors each year to downtown Pittsburgh?

Kennedy Township Celebrates the Season

Kennedy Township is hosting its annual Breakfast with Santa event this Sunday, December 14th from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Kennedy Volunteer Fire Department.  This is an official township event as well as a fundraiser for the Kennedy Volunteer Fire Department, and a pancake breakfast will be held between the same hours listed above.  All children will receive special treats and a Chinese auction will run throughout the event with proceeds benefitting the fire department.  The fire department will also be holding an open house from 1 – 5 p.m. where firefighters will display their new ladder truck to the community.

For more information about the event and for ticket information, please contact Anita Kulik at 412-787-5422.

Fontana Fact

pensFor the third straight year, Forbes has named Pittsburgh Penguins fans as the National Hockey League’s Best Fans.  Rankings were calculated based on five measurable criteria including the percentage of the local population that watched, attended, and/or listened to a game in the last year, the last three years of television ratings, arena attendance, merchandise sales, and social media reach.  Every Penguins game at CONSOL Energy Center has been sold out, a streak that started at their previous home, Mellon Arena, on February 14, 2007.

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
Aging Institute