State Budget Update/Pennsylvania’s Fiscal Situation
A $32 billion spending plan was enacted three months ago. The budget received overwhelming bipartisan support with only seven senators voting against it. In the House, only 27 representatives out of 200 casted a no vote. How is it that Pennsylvania finds itself three months into the Fiscal Year without a deal on how to pay for the very plan that all but 34 members of the General Assembly agreed to enact?
Even more unsettling is the fact that there have been several spending proposals that have earned the support of three of the four legislative caucuses as well as the Governor. Yet, the House Republicans continue to block such ideas. As a result, the credit-rating agency, Standards & Poor’s, handed the Commonwealth a credit downgrade. Our credit rating is now the lowest it has been in nearly 40 years.
A lower credit rating generally means that the market of prospective buyers for Pennsylvania's bonds will be softer and it will cost taxpayers more when the state borrows money. The Governor’s Office is now taking control by raising $1.25 billion in cash by borrowing against future anticipated payments from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Now, any local government, school district, municipal authority, etc. who does business with the Commonwealth will pay more interest, which will undoubtedly turn into increases at local levels for taxpayers.
It’s easy for the House Republicans and those who support the no-tax-increase-of-any-kind philosophy to continue to demand the Commonwealth cut spending. At the end of the day, there is nothing left to cut. Legislators constantly hear what everyone wants funded. But what’s lacking is the strategy on how to achieve it. We need individuals, groups and organizations to start coming up with reasonable solutions on how to fund this deficit. Simply taking the stance of no increased taxes is only adding to the complexity of the problem.
A natural gas severance tax has been a hot-button issue for nearly a decade with many arguing that it would harm the state’s economy. This is a tax that 75 percent of Pennsylvanians agree with and support and around 75 percent of it would be paid by non-Pennsylvanians. The drilling industry is not going to move out of the Commonwealth. We have abundant resources. At the end of the day, by not enacting a severance tax on Marcellus Shale, the House Republicans are ultimately forcing the General Assembly to create higher taxes on Pennsylvanians.
Homeless Children’s Awareness Week
Recently I had the opportunity to present a resolution on the Senate floor that recognizes this Sunday, October 15 – October 21, as Homeless Children’s Awareness Week in Pennsylvania. This annual week is designed to bring awareness to the plight and promise of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
I commend the Homeless Children's Education Fund in Pittsburgh for the tireless work they do to fulfill their mission to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. As a national model for addressing the educational needs of unstably-housed children and youth, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund leads a collaborative effort among regional partners by providing educational programs and services in Allegheny County and advocating for policy and system improvement.
During Homeless Children’s Awareness Week, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund is offering a variety of awareness-raising events for the public all across our region. For more information on these events, the organization’s mission, or to get involved, please call 412-562-0154 or visit www.homelessfund.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that 42 percent of homeless children in Pennsylvania are 6 years of age or younger?
Voter Registration Deadline is TODAY!
The deadline to be registered to vote in the Nov. 7 General Election is today. Anyone not registered can do so online today at www.votespa.com. In addition to registering to vote, users can utilize the site to confirm registration status, update your registration, locate your polling place, or request an absentee ballot. You may also pick up paper applications in my district offices or download a paper application at www.votespa.com.
Absentee Ballot Deadline
Any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 7 General Election must complete and return an absentee ballot application to the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 31. The Division of Elections is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601 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. Completed absentee ballots must be then received by the Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3.
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 please contact 412-350-4510 or visit www.votespa.com.
Slot Machine Revenue Increases
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that revenue from slot machines in Pennsylvania increased 1.7 percent in September compared with September 2016. Slot machine revenue in September totaled more than $195.3 million, an increase of 1.7 percent over last September’s slot machine revenue of nearly $192.2 million. Total tax revenue from slot machines in September was over $96.1 million. Nine of the 12 casinos, including Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, reported increased slot machine revenue during September.
The Gaming Control Board also recently released its 2016-17 Annual Report. The report provides significant detail on the work of the agency in regulating the Commonwealth’s casino industry and also includes:
- Slot machine and table game gross revenue and tax revenue statewide and broken down for each of the 12 casinos;
- Reports and pertinent statistical figures from key bureaus;
- A list of all Executive Sessions held by the board during the fiscal year;
- Revenue and expenditures during the fiscal year by the Gaming Control Board, along with a breakdown of employment at the agency; and,
- An expanded section on problem gambling statistics on the Gaming Control Board’s Self-Exclusion Program.
The report can be downloaded at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
The state’s gaming industry employs nearly 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.
CLP-Mt. Washington Meeting – TOMORROW!
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is hosting an informational meeting regarding the renovation of its Mt. Washington branch tomorrow evening. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and is being held at the Mt. Washington Senior Center, located at 122 Virginia Avenue. Library officials will be discussing the new features of the CLP-Mt. Washington branch and sharing the upcoming schedule for future improvements. The meeting is open to the public. For any questions please contact Marian Streiff at 412-381-3380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall Festival in McKees Rocks
5 Generation Bakers will be hosting a Community Fall Festival on Saturday, Oct. 28 from noon – 4 p.m. in the 5 Generations parking lot, located at 1100 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks.
Activities include Trick or Treating, a costume contest, and live entertainment. 5 Generation Bakers will be providing free French toast and grilled cheese samples, as well as have candy apples, cookies, brownies, and pies for sale in their retail store. Community organizations will be handing out candy as well.
For more information on the Fall Festival, please click here or visit http://jennyleeswirlbread.com/fall-festival.html.
As we move through October in western Pennsylvania we’ll begin seeing more and more leaves falling from the trees. Shorter days and cooler temperatures force trees to stop producing chlorophyll, the substance that gives leaves their green color. When this production stops, the always present carotenoids appear which is why leaves change to colors like red, orange, yellow and brown. The trees in just one acre of forest can shed as much as 4,000 pounds of leaves every fall.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212