|Senator Fontana presented Children’s Hospital with a Citation from the Pennsylvania Senate on June 4th in celebration of the hospital’s 125th anniversary. From the doctors and nurses to support staff and volunteers who work so hard to make Children’s Hospital such a special place, and to the people of this region and their continued embrace of this hospital, thank you and here’s to another successful 125 years!
On Time Budget?
Next week, the Pennsylvania General Assembly will reach the halfway point for the month of June, quickly approaching the end of the month when a final budget will need to be passed. What has typically been known to be the busiest month in the Legislature feels more like a time when things have come to a standstill. For example, instead of scheduling the General Assembly to vote every weekday leading up to June 30th, the House of Representatives leadership actually canceled a session day last week. I’m confused by the logic of the Majority Party and in fact believe they are intentionally playing with the political process to set the governor up for failure.
I understand that Pennsylvania has a Republican-led General Assembly. However, we must take into consideration that Governor Wolf campaigned and was elected to office by these same residents on a different platform than the bare-bones proposals of years past. One must also keep in mind that our current fiscal situation and the $2.3 billion deficit are a result of the draconian cuts to services statewide under the previous administration and majority party which means our responsibilities lie in a fundamental shift from what the Republicans are used to.
With that being said, I personally feel that the majority party in the Legislature, who by the way determine the voting agenda, are setting Governor Wolf up for a last minute veto only to turn around and blame him and his priorities for the delay of an on time budget. Take into consideration the events that unfolded in the House last week. House Republican members decided to insult the Administration by bringing up to vote a spending plan that lacked the financial means to fund Governor Wolf’s 2015-16 spending plan. Then in an apparent attempt to prove a point, the same leadership called up Governor Wolf’s tax-shifting plan, which is necessary to provide for the governor’s General Appropriations Bill. The House leadership knew the position that they were putting members in to make a difficult vote as well as that the bill would be defeated. This was a stunt just to prove a point that the governor did not have the votes necessary at that time. In addition, this political maneuver did nothing to move the process forward and in fact wasted precious time.
The Majority Party’s leadership have went on record saying they are willing to stay here all summer and fall and risk a prolonged stalemate. More alarming, this mindset is toying with the livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanian families, employees, school districts, counties and non-profit organizations that depend on an on time budget. The time is now to get serious about coming to the table and bringing meaningful proposals that align with what the residents of Pennsylvania have asked. The General Assembly has a duty to work together with the governor to achieve the same goal which is a fiscally responsible spending plan that is passed by June 30th.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program through the end of the year. The previous deadline had been June 30th but has been extended through December 31st. Rebate distribution will begin on July 1st for anyone who returned their completed application by June 30th. After June 30th, rebates will be distributed as claims are reviewed and processed by the Department of Revenue.
If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, 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. Keep in mind that half of Social Security income is excluded.
Due to program changes enacted last year to ensure claimants aren’t disqualified from rebates solely because of Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments, homeowners and renters may be eligible for rebates even if their eligibility income is greater than these limits. Any homeowner who collected Social Security, received a property tax rebate in 2013 for claim year 2012 and had annual income last year, discounting half of Social Security, up to $36,129, is encouraged to apply for a rebate for claim year 2014. Any renter in that same situation with an annual income in 2014, discounting half of Social Security, up to $15,484, is also encouraged to apply.
Did You Know…
Did you know that since the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program’s inception in 1971, older and disabled adults have received more than $5.9 billion in property tax and rent relief? The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Slot Machine Revenue Up Slightly in May
Recently the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that revenue from slot machines from the state’s 12 casinos increased slightly in May compared to the same month in 2014. Gross revenue from slot machines was over $211 million in May compared to over $210.8 million in May 2014. Tax revenue generated during May from slot machine play was over $112 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 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.
Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Qualifying seniors in Allegheny County will soon be able to pick up vouchers for locally grown fruits and vegetables. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a federal program that is administered at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This program attempts to provide seniors who are nutritionally at risk a means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from approved Pennsylvania farmers.
The program provides recipients with four $5 voucher checks for a total year benefit of $20 to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets. Checks may be spent through November 30th on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.
Some examples of produce that may be purchased with the vouchers are apples, beans, berries, carrots, grapes, melons, spinach and tomatoes. Customers must spend the entire $5 check and change will not be given.
The distribution of voucher checks will take place one week from today on Tuesday, June 16th at senior centers throughout Allegheny County. Checks are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Seniors are asked to bring identification showing proof of age and residency to the distribution site.
To be eligible, individuals must be an Allegheny County resident age 60 or older. The income limit for a one-person household is $21,775 and is $29,471 for a two-person household. Married couples may each receive one set of checks. If an eligible consumer requires a proxy to receive their checks, the proxy is responsible for signing for and spending the checks for the individual. All individuals must completely fill out a proxy form in order to have a proxy receive checks for them.
For a complete listing of voucher check distribution locations and times, or to download a proxy form, please visit Allegheny County Department of Human Services website at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/olderadults.aspx. A listing of distribution sites, farmers’ market locations and proxy forms can also be picked up in my district offices. Anyone with questions on the program can also call the Allegheny County SeniorLine at 412-350-5460.
Faces Never Forgotten
The Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA), in partnership with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), is hoping to locate more than 600 photos of Pennsylvanians who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. As part of DMVA’s participation in the 50th anniversary of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, the DMVA is partnering with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to encourage the public to support their “Faces Never Forgotten” campaign.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund wants to collect photos for each of the 58,307 men and women whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., so that they can keep the legacies of these service members alive for future generations. Since the photo campaign was launched in 2009, the VVMF has located photos for approximately 41,000 of the names inscribed on the Memorial. Of the 3,148 service members from Pennsylvania whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial, 606 photos are still needed.
For a complete listing of Pennsylvania service members whose photos are still needed please click here or visit www.dmva.state.pa.us and click on “Featured Topics.” For information on how to submit a photo please visit http://www.vvmf.org/faces-never-forgotten.
State Museum Celebrating 50 Years
The State Museum and Archives Complex is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer with a series of family-friendly events. Located across the street from the State Capitol in Harrisburg, the iconic circular museum building and imposing archives tower were dedicated in October 1965 and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Since its dedication 50 years ago, The State Museum and Archives Complex has been a destination for millions of visitors, researchers and students seeking “all things Pennsylvania.”
The State Museum will celebrate the anniversary with special programming offered through its well-attended Learn@Lunchtime series and a family-friendly party. Also, staff from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) will offer insights into the architectural style and history of The State Museum and Archives Complex and a “Party Like Its 1965” event is scheduled for June 13th. If you’re traveling through Harrisburg this summer and are interested in visiting, events are scheduled all summer and more information can be found at www.statemuseumpa.org.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania is one of 25 historic sites and museums administered by the PHMC as part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History. The State Museum offers expansive collections interpreting our fascinating heritage. Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 5 p.m.
Taste of Beechview
The 3rd annual Taste of Beechview is scheduled for Saturday, June 20th from 2 – 5 p.m. at Broadway and Hampshire. A local happy hour will follow the event from 5 – 7 p.m. Taste of Beechview is free to attend with food and beverages available for purchase from the following establishments: Brew on Broadway; Crested Duck Charcuterie; Slice on Broadway; Casa Rasta; Fry Dawgz; Hey Tabouli; Las Palmas; BACC Cheescakes; Berlin Street Foods; Le Cupcake Shoppe; Quality Cuts; Chip+Kale; and more. For more information please visit the Taste of Beechview Food Festival on Facebook.
Focus On Renewal Event
Focus On Renewal (FOR) is hosting a Big Burrito Benefit Dinner on June 16th to raise funds for the organization so they can continue its vital programming in the Sto-Rox community and surrounding areas. The event begins at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, the 16th, at the Mad Mex, located at 2 Robinson Plaza. Attendees can enjoy a festive dinner with FOR staff, board members and friends while celebrating FOR’s amazing work in the community. For more information including how to purchase tickets, please contact Chris Crytzer at 412-331-1685, ext. 305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday, June 14th is the official observance of Flag Day across America. It was on that date in 1777 the Continental Congress adopted a flag of 13 red and white stripes and 13 stars in a field of blue to serve as the nation’s first flag. The holiday has a Pittsburgh connection that dates back to the 1800’s. William T. Kerr, who was born in Pittsburgh in 1868, established the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888 and served as the organization’s president for more than 50 years. Mr. Kerr began lobbying at the age of 14 to have June 14th recognized nationally as a day to honor the Flag. Despite proclamations from Presidents Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and Calvin Coolidge in 1927 that asked for June 14th to be observed as National Flag Day, it was not until President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 that officially designated June 14th each year as National Flag Day. William T. Kerr was in his 80’s and participated in the ceremony when President Truman signed the bill into law.
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