Views on the Budget Stalemate
Pennsylvanians have spoken loud and clear yet the Majority party continues to ignore the priorities of our residents. In late August, Franklin and Marshall College released the results of a recent public-opinion poll that found that 54 percent of voters considered the Republican-controlled Legislature responsible for the budget impasse and not Governor Wolf. How many more months need to pass before Republican leaders come to the table and actually negotiate a fair budget that accomplishes the priorities of Pennsylvanians?
Although the budget impasse has received a lot of attention, the games going on right now by the General Assembly are nothing new. The only agenda the Majority wants to pursue are their own. I have introduced meaningful legislation during my time in the Senate that has consistently been passed up or blocked because it does not have a Republican member as the main sponsor. Why should whose name behind the legislation matter? Shouldn’t it be what is best for the commonwealth?
The same thing can be said of budget requests. Over the past four years, groups, organizations, services and programs have come to my office seeking additional revenues because of the drastic cuts in Governor Corbett’s budgets. Unfortunately, these groups were considered the lucky ones because they did not see their funding levels eliminated altogether.
My caucus has consistently stood with nonprofits and for additional education funding but since we have been in the minority, our voices have not mattered. The Majority party has had enough votes to pass an irresponsible budget filled with one-time gimmicks that eventually lead us to the current $1.3 billion deficit. These failed policies of the past have clearly not worked yet the Republicans have pulled the same antics under Governor Wolf and expect his administration to adhere to more temporary “fixes.” Something needs to be done. We cannot accept this agenda anymore or we will end up in the same exact place again next year.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Since being elected, Governor Wolf has made it clear that he will fulfill his campaign promise of taxing the oil and gas companies to fund our schools and provide property tax relief. Poll after poll has concluded that this agenda is what the taxpayers have asked for and this is made evident with Governor Wolf’s job approval rating continuing to hold steady with residents rating him as doing “excellent or good job.”
In March, Governor Wolf released his budget plan. It is now September and the Republican Majority is still ignoring the administration’s requests. This is unacceptable. In fact, the only “progress” that has been made more recently is when the House went into session and attempted to override 20 line items from the Governor's June 30th veto to the Republican General Appropriations bill, House Bill 1192 (HB 1192). Fortunately, this act was deemed unconstitutional since an override vote must address the entire budget bill. In addition, a successful veto override requires a two-thirds majority approval which was not achieved. Instead, all that was accomplished was a waste of time and effort at the taxpayers’ expense.
More recently, many organizations and services have asked that I support a stop-gap budget which would temporarily provide state funding to programs until October 31st. While this idea sounds good in theory it solves nothing and perpetuates the real problem since no incentive would be left for Republican leaders to come to the table. I would also like to point out that under Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, many line items receive significantly more funding than what they have seen under Governor Corbett’s budgets. Why would organizations be happy with status quo than be provided with sufficient funding that would have long-term positive implications? A stop-gap budget is not the answer. The Majority party needs to feel the pressure from the residents or they will continue with their charades as a means to avoid coming to terms that they are the problem.
The budget impasse is a clear reminder that the Majority Party in the General Assembly do not want to come to the table and negotiate or work with the Wolf administration’s goals. Pennsylvania is in the current mess because of the past administration’s failed policies. Residents of the commonwealth elected Governor Wolf because they believe we need to invest in Pennsylvania. We need to pass a budget that makes our state stronger for years to come and quit toying with the livelihoods of so many Pennsylvania families, employees, school districts, counties and nonprofit organizations.
Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic
I will be hosting my annual Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Friday, September 25th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline. American HealthCare Group will be providing free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card. Make sure to bring your card with you.
I am also pleased that several organizations from around the region will be present to provide seniors with important information on available services and resources including AARP, the Office of the Consumer Advocate, PA APPRISE Health Insurance Counseling Program, Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Seton Center, Allegheny County Bar Association and Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy, and more.
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 500 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, 526 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.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program through the end of the year. 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.
Pennsylvania State Rail Plan
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is hosting three open houses, including one in Pittsburgh, for the public and stakeholders to review the draft for the update of the Pennsylvania State Rail Plan. The plan allows the commonwealth to identify a clear vision of the future of rail transportation, to set objectives for achieving that vision, and to document and evaluate passenger and freight rail needs over the course of the next 25 years to guide investments. PennDOT is working with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the update.
The open house in Pittsburgh is scheduled for next Tuesday, September 15th, at the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station, located at 1100 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh from 6 – 8 p.m. The updated plan is to be submitted to the FRA in November. The draft 2015 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan can be reviewed and commented on by clicking here or by visiting http://www.planthekeystone.com/staterailplan.html. Comments will also be accepted at the Open House Public Meetings and online from September 31st – October 2nd.
Did You Know…
Did you know Pennsylvania’s Keystone Corridor, the rail route running east/west across the state linking Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia, was constructed in the early 1900’s by the Pennsylvania railroad? Today the Keystone Corridor handles freight trains and passenger trains.
Lunch & Learn
The Allegheny County APPRISE Program and Allegheny Link are hosting a Lunch & Learn event on September 17th at the Human Service Building, located at One Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The event will focus on VA health benefits and the coordination with Medicare and Medicaid coverage and will feature a panel discussion on the accessibility and utilization of VA health care benefits as well as the VA aid and attendance benefits. Attendees can learn more about the extent of health benefits available under the Veterans Administration, what the eligibility requirements are, and how to apply. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. with lunch and introductions followed by the presentation from noon – 3 p.m. Anyone interested in attending should R.S.V.P. to Bill McKendree at email@example.com.
ALCOSAN Open House
ALCOSAN is hosting their annual Open House on Saturday, September 19th from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at their 56-acre campus, located at 3300 Preble Avenue. The region’s largest watershed and environmental festival features hands-on environmental activities and exhibits, treatment plant and laboratory tours, microbiology and watershed life demonstrations, and educational activities for all ages.
Kids looking to STEM careers and those looking to enter a trade will have an opportunity to meet engineers, scientists, mechanics, and laborers to learn about their experiences. ALCOSAN’s “Snuffleupagus” truck that cleans out the big sewer lines will be on hand, as well as the video robots that travel through the sewer lines to find blockages. Attendees can also walk through a simulated sewer pipe to better understand the challenges in stopping sewer overflows and what needs to happen collaboratively moving forward.
For more information on the Open House, please visit www.alcosan.org or call their Open House Hotline at 412-732-8002.
The Borough of Avalon was first settled in 1788 by John Taylor, an Irish immigrant who cleared the land and planted orchards. Avalon was incorporated as a borough on December 9, 1874. Today the Borough encompasses .6 square miles along the Ohio River, located six miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh and is home to over 4,700 residents.
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