Senator Fontana attended a press conference last Friday at the Rivers Casino that announced the results of a two-week poker competition between four of the top poker players in the world and Claudico, a program designed by Carnegie Mellon University. Claudico and the four professionals played 80,000 hands during the competition. Its purpose for CMU was to create an artificial intelligence that can help humans negotiate and make decisions in situations where they can’t know all of the facts. The algorithms they developed can have future applications in business, military, cyber security, and medical arenas.
Property Tax Reform Survey Results
Throughout the month of April, we ran a reader survey on the issue of property tax reform and the ambitious proposals required to overhaul our current school funding system and what residents feel is the best approach for this matter. Upon closing out the poll, I wanted to share with you some of the findings based upon participant responses.
- Of the 276 individuals who took the survey, 97 percent of the respondents identified themselves as a homeowner.
- Of the 267 homeowners, 109 identified themselves as a senior (65 years or older) and 158 identified themselves as a non-senior.
For starters, 87 percent of homeowners who took the survey feel that Pennsylvania’s current system of funding public education is in great need of reform. At the same time, only 36 percent of responding homeowners think that the current funding structure for public schools in Pennsylvania is adequate.
With that being said, the issue of rising property taxes has a direct correlation to public school funding which has now been at the forefront of concern for Pennsylvanians for at least four decades. A part of Governor Wolf’s budget proposal to ease school property taxes would be achieved in part by raising the commonwealth’s Personal Income Tax and the sales tax. The sales tax would also be extended to 45 additional categories of products or services that are currently exempt. When asked about this particular part of the proposal, participants answered with:
- 59 percent of homeowners support raising other taxes to reduce school property taxes and restructure how public education is funded.
- 54 percent of these survey takers support an expansion of the state sales tax to some goods and services that are currently exempt in order to reduce the local property taxes.
Specifically, the governor’s plan would raise the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 3.70 percent in July of 2015 and the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent in 2016. The survey found:
- More than half of senior homeowners and nearly 60 percent of non-senior homeowners support an increase in the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent if it would result in a property tax reduction of up to $1,000.
- 57 percent of homeowners support an increase in the state’s sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent in an effort to provide property tax relief or elimination.
Another proposal that will be reintroduced from last session (formerly Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76) known as the Property Tax Independence Act would eliminate school property taxes altogether by increasing the state's personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; increasing the state's sales and use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent (8 percent in Allegheny County) and by expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services similar to the governor’s plan. This proposal overall did not win approval by the individuals who participated in the survey:
- 57 percent of seniors and 72 percent of non-senior homeowners do not want their personal income tax to increase from 3.07 percent to over 4 percent in an effort to provide property tax relief .
I found this exercise to be very enlightening and hope to continue to hear from my constituents in the near future about where they stand on such issues like property taxes and school funding. Going forward, I will use these survey results as well as all correspondences, including personal interactions, emails and calls to my offices from constituents about individual’s views.
Election Day Information
Next Tuesday is Election Day! For any questions related to voting, I encourage everyone to visit www.votespa.com. The website offers information on voting rights, answers to frequently asked questions, and provides you with the ability to confirm your registration and much more.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the Primary Election is today. All completed absentee ballot applications must be received by the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. The Elections Office is located in the County Office Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh:
542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
When applying in person, as long as you are properly registered, you will be given an absentee ballot on the spot and you will be able to cast your vote right then and there.
If you have already applied for and received your absentee ballot, please know all voted absentee ballots must be received in the Elections Office no later than 5 p.m. this Friday, May 15th in order to be counted. If you have any questions or need any additional information, please visit the Absentee Ballot page at www.alleghenycounty.us or call 412-350-4520.
Locate Your Polling Place
If you are not sure where to vote on Election Day, or wish to confirm your polling place, Allegheny County offers a simple-to-use online Polling Place locator. Click on the previous link to get started. Simply enter your municipality, house number and street name. Once you have entered that information, your polling place address will be displayed. You may also select “View Ballot” to see the ballot as it will appear before you when you go vote.
If you feel your information is inaccurate in any way, or have any further questions regarding your polling place or ballot, please call 412-350-4500.
How to Register Election Day Complaints
Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so online by visiting www.votespa.com and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab. The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter. Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board in the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.
In Allegheny County, written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the County Board of Elections. You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement or visit www.dos.pa.gov.
All Senate offices will be closed next Tuesday, May 19th for Election Day. My offices will re-open on Wednesday, May 20th as scheduled.
Bicycle & Motorcycle Safety
In addition to vehicular traffic, more and more bicycles will begin appearing on local roads due to the warmer weather. The month of May is National Bicycle Safety Month and the American Trauma Society offers the following safety tips for bicyclists:
- Always wear a properly fitted helmet.
- Inspect your bike before going for a ride. Make sure your bike chain is in good working condition, all the wheel spokes are attached, tires are properly inflated, the seat is at the correct level, and all reflectors are in place.
- Always ride in the same direction as vehicle traffic.
- Obey all traffic signals, including stop signs and lights.
- Wear brightly colored, reflective clothing so vehicle drivers can see you more easily.
- Never use a cell phone or ride impaired by alcohol or drugs.
May is also National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. To keep everyone safe on the roads, both motorcyclists and other drivers, www.justdrivepa.com offers the following tips:
- Always wear protective gear when riding a motorcycle. Remember your protective clothing is the only thing between you and the pavement.
- Make sure reflectors are included on clothing and the motorcycle to allow drivers to see riders more easily.
- Consider taking the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program. This program, offered at nearly 70 locations, teaches riders the skills needed to be a safe rider. More details on the program can be found at www.pamsp.com.
- All drivers, whether in a car, truck, or motorcycle, should always obey speed limits and never drive when impaired by alcohol or other substances.
- Non motorcycle drivers should remember to look out for motorcycles. Remember to allow a longer following distance and always signal your turns.
- All drivers, regardless of their chosen transportation, should be respectful of other drivers.
Did You Know…
Did you know that as of 2014 there are over 861,000 licensed motorcyclists in Pennsylvania?
Small Business Resource Fair – TONIGHT!
Mayor Peduto’s office, in partnership with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), will host a complimentary, government focused, Small Business Resource Fair tonight. The purpose of the event is to offer small business owners in-person access to representatives from all relevant departments within city services (zoning, permits, ADA compliance, etc.). Attendees will have the opportunity to have all questions answered, in one location. This is an ideal event for small business owners in the City of Pittsburgh such as restaurateurs, retail owners, and contractors.
Tonight’s event runs from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on the 6th floor of the City-County Building, located at 414 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The event is free and anyone interested in attending can R.S.V.P. by clicking here.
Walk for a Healthy Community
The 2015 Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community is scheduled for this Saturday, beginning at Stage AE on the North Shore. Walk registration begins at 7:45 a.m. with the 5K walk beginning at 9 a.m. and the one-mile fun walk starting at 9:15 a.m.
This year’s event is bringing together 75 non-profit organizations, including Focus on Renewal and many other terrific organizations that reside in the 42nd Senatorial District and deliver vital health and human service programs in our community. You can view a list of all participating organizations by clicking here. There is no registration fee to participate in the walk but all walkers are encouraged to raise funds for the organization of their choice. Highmark underwrites the cost of the walk, so all money raised is donated to directly benefit the organization of your choice.
If you are interested in participating, please visit www.walkforahealthycommunity.org to get started. On the home page, click on the link “Pittsburgh” and then the “Register Now” tab which will allow you to select the organization you wish to support.
Ohio Valley Hospital/Kennedy Township 5K
The 34th annual Ohio Valley Hospital and Kennedy Township 5K is scheduled for this Saturday, May 16th. More than 160 runners and walkers turned out last year “for the Hill of it” to compete on this challenging course. The race, rain or shine, begins at 8 a.m. in front of Ohio Valley Hospital on Heckel Road in Kennedy.
Race participants, volunteers, and sideline cheerleaders are all welcome to attend. A continental breakfast and awards ceremony will follow the race. For more information on how to register for the race please visit http://ohiovalleyhospital.org/programs-and-events/. If you are interested in volunteering please call Megan Eaton, Race Director, at 412-777-6365.
Last week was National Nurses Week, a concept that originated in 1953, where we celebrate the role nurses play in delivering high level quality care to patients. Nursing is the nation’s largest health care profession with more than 3.1 million registered nurses nationwide. Nurses comprise the largest single component of hospital staff around the country.
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)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm