Budget Impasse Continues
During the last week in September, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a stopgap budget that was vetoed within hours because the plan did not address the growing $1.3 billion deficit. Last week, this same chamber continued with their rhetoric by once again voting against increased funding for education and human services and property tax relief for seniors. Who’s kidding who here? Instead of any real negotiations, the budget impasse continues on without any compromise being achieved. Please know your voices continue to be heard and I am just as frustrated. Clearly these antics are not working for anyone.
I have been thinking a lot about the current process. I feel that legislative leaders and negotiators from both sides need to come together and remain in a room all day and every day until we finally reach an agreement. After all, Pennsylvanians elected the General Assembly to do a job and now is the time to get it done.
Below is in opinion article I wrote that was published in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 8, 2015.
It’s Time to Disband the ICA
Without getting into the pros and cons of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agency’s (ICA) financial oversight in Pittsburgh over the past 11 years, the authority has served its purpose. There is no longer a need or justification to keep it operating.
This is why I have introduced Senate Bill 1024, which would repeal the act that created the board and essentially disband the ICA.
The ICA is already operating beyond its targeted expiration date within statute. Our city long ago complied with the law’s mandated financial benchmarks. In step with Pittsburgh’s impressive economic recovery, this secondary oversight authority was supposed to end – and leadership was supposed to be restored to local taxpayers’ elected leaders.
Yet, that hasn’t happened because the ICA has conveniently insisted that it continue providing oversight because Pittsburgh hasn’t “technically” complied with their interpretation of the law’s mandated budget and planning goals.
Keeping the ICA would be less offensive if taxpayers were not continuing to pay to keep this secondary authority in business. The fact that Pittsburgh already has Act 47 financial oversight assistance makes the need for the ICA that much more dubious.
The authority should have dissolved years ago, but some from outside the borders of the city have grown fond of their influential overreach in Pittsburgh’s financial affairs.
Apart from this debate about how useful the ICA is a decade later, at issue is a disturbing question over who should be making local budget and financial planning decisions. Pittsburgh’s city leaders answer to the city’s citizens. While this oversight was tolerable while Pittsburgh needed the state’s input to avoid bankruptcy, it was never intended as a permanent arrangement.
The need for a second layer of Harrisburg’s “help” has passed. It’s time for it to come to an end.
Absentee Ballot Deadline
I want to remind everyone that any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27. The Division of Elections is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 604 in downtown Pittsburgh. You can download and print an application by clicking here or you can pick one up at any of my district offices.
Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of your Social Security number. If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application. For any questions related to registering to vote, please contact 412-350-4510 or visit www.votespa.com.
Fire Company/Volunteer Ambulance Grants
I want to remind all volunteer fire companies and ambulance services organizations that the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) has opened the online grant application process for the 2015-16 Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program (FCVASGP). Applications are due to the OSFC no later than October 22 at 4 p.m. No applications will be accepted after October 22.
All fire companies, volunteer ambulance services, and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grant funding. Eligible projects include: construction and/or renovation of the fire company’s or ambulance service’s facility; the purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; the purchase or repair of fixtures and furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability of the company to provide services; debt reduction associated with the facility or equipment; or the training and certification of members.
Grant applications are available online by clicking here. For any organization that submitted a grant application last year, you still must create a new User ID and Password in order to access the 2015-16 grant application.
Slot Machine Revenue Increases in September
Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that revenue from the play of slot machines at the state’s 12 casinos increased four percent in September compared to the same month in 2014. Gross revenue from slot machines was nearly $187.6 million in September, a four percent increase from the just over $180 million in revenue in September 2014. Tax revenue generated during September from slot machines was over $100.2 million.
Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
State Police Academy Open House
The Pennsylvania State Police Recruitment and Special Services Section is hosting a Police Academy Open House on October 24 from noon – 4 p.m. At the event, information will be provided about careers, civilian and enlisted, including becoming a Pennsylvania State Trooper, Liquor Enforcement Officer, Motor Carrier Enforcement Officer, and a Police Communications Officer. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit their training academy, watch Physical Readiness Testing demonstrations, view equipment displays, and listen to a presentation about what it takes to become a Trooper.
The Open House is taking place at the State Police’s Training Academy in Hershey, located at 175 East Hersheypark Drive. For more information on becoming a State Trooper, please visit www.PaTrooper.com. You may also contact Tpr. Aaron Hunt at 717-409-4317 or Cpl. Dan Gonzalez at 717-671-7563.
Domestic Violence Awareness
Nearly 100 people died from domestic violence in Pennsylvania in 2014, with ages ranging from infant to elderly. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, many of those killed were attempting to end an abusive relationship, obtain custody of their children and/or seek legal protection, all while trying to stay safe.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports the following as shared by the Pennsylvania Division of the American Trauma Society:
- Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten
- On average, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical abuse
- The risk of a homicide increases by 500 percent if a firearm is present in a domestic violence situation
While the signs of domestic violence can vary depending on the situation, some common signs include:
- Name calling and put downs
- Discourages/prevents you from going to work/school/seeing family members
- Tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what your wear, and your medications
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol
- Threatens you with violence or a weapon
- Physical abuse
- Forces sexual acts without your consent
- Blames you for his/her behavior
You can show your support for those suffering from domestic violence by wearing purple during October, and by speaking up. For more information on how you can play a role in ending domestic violence, please visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence at www.nnedv.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that only 34 percent of people injured through domestic violence seek medical attention?
Lyft Offering Free Rides in October for Breast Cancer Patients
The transportation network company (TNC), Lyft, is teaming with Ford Warriors in Pink to give up to 10,000 free rides to breast cancer patients traveling to and from treatment during the month of October. For breast cancer patients, dependable transportation to and from treatment is often a challenge. Some patients may be under doctor’s orders not to drive and for some public transportation may be difficult. Lyft is encouraging individuals to give or claim a ride, making it easier for someone to get to necessary treatment.
For more information on this effort, please click here or visit http://take.lyft.com/moregooddays/. For anyone interested in taking this effort to social media, Ford Warriors in Pink will donate one free ride to a breast cancer patient for every tweet, Facebook or Instagram post with the hashtag #MoreGoodDays.
During the 2015 regular season the Pittsburgh Pirates set a single-season attendance record for a second straight year with a total of 2,498,596 fans attending 81 games. This figure represents an increase of 56,032 from the 2014 season, and an average of 30,847 a game. During the regular season, the Pirates finished with a record of 98-64, which represented the second best record in Major League Baseball. The 98 wins were the most by the Pirates since 1991.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm