A Solution for the State’s Aging Infrastructure
When it comes to the high level of lead found in the drinking water of some of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s (PWSA) residential customers, the time is now to quit finger pointing at each other and start working together. This has been an ongoing problem for our region for several months now and we need to combat the problem before it becomes an outright crisis. What it all comes down to is clarification of current law and financial assistance and I have a viable plan to accomplish these tasks.
In the beginning of May, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the PWSA is the second largest water system in the country with lead levels that exceed a key threshold. I am sure that all officials can agree that this is not a designation we want for our residents. For this reason, PWSA has been mandated to replace the publicly-owned segments of the service lines.
However, the next obstacle officials must address are the lines beneath a resident’s private property. Unbeknown to many are the pipes that carry water from PWSA mains under the street to a residence are the homeowner’s responsibility. The same can be said of private sewer laterals. What has been found are numerous private lines where the contamination is taking place but PWSA is claiming they are only permitted to work on the publicly-owned pipes. To make the situation even more dire are that many of these homeowners are at a financial disadvantage and unable to pay for these costly repairs.
For this reason, I have introduced three bills that would clarify the question of who can replace private sewer and water lines along with an avenue to help pay for these repairs or replacements:
- Senate Bill 334 (SB 334) - Would allow municipalities to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewage lines connected to public sewer systems where the municipality or municipal authority determines that such activities will benefit the public sewer system.
- Senate Bill 639 (SB 639) - Would allow municipalities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PennVEST funding applications when determined by the municipality that it is the most cost effective approach to reduce wet weather sewer overflows.
- Senate Bill 656 (SB 656) - Would allow municipalities and municipal authorities the ability to repair and replace these contaminated private water lines as well as make public funds available for this operation when the faulty lines pose a threat to the public’s health and safety.
Pennsylvania’s underground infrastructure is a significant problem, not just for my district, but for much of the state. It is imperative that all elected officials who are responsible for the health, welfare and safety of our citizens work together to capitalize on every possible approach with regards to prevention and control of any potential exposure. My legislation would give local municipalities and authorities the tools they need to upgrade both public and private infrastructure. In addition, my bills will save cities and municipalities money in the long run by allowing more underground work to be done at one time without repeatedly tearing up streets and sidewalks. We need to stop playing politics and start working together to get my bills passed as soon as possible.
All Senate offices will be closed next Monday, May 29 in observance of Memorial Day. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, May 30.
Table Games Revenue Increases in April
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that revenue from table games play in Pennsylvania during April increased more than 10 percent over April 2016. Gross revenue from table games in April was over $79.5 million compared to just over $72 million in April 2016. Total tax revenue from table games play during April was over $12.8 million.
Combined with April’s slot machine revenue, overall gaming revenue was 1.44 percent higher than April 2016.
The state’s gaming industry employs 18,000 people and generates roughly $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from slot machines and table games. To read more about gaming in Pennsylvania please visit the Gaming Control Board’s website at http://gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov/.
PA ABLE Savings Account Program
Recently, the Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Savings Program opened. This program provides tax-exempt accounts for individuals with qualified disabilities and their families.
PA ABLE was created through Act 17 of 2016, legislation I was proud to co-sponsor and support. It was modeled after the college 529 savings account programs. PA ABLE accounts allow eligible individuals with qualifying disabilities and their families to save for housing, education, transportation, medical, and other expenses without jeopardizing government benefits. The federal tax-free savings and investment options are offered to encourage individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support health, independence, and quality of life.
Under the PA ABLE Savings program, eligible individuals can:
- Save up to $14,000 each year.
- Grow accounts tax-free.
- Use account to pay for a wide range of disability-related expenses.
- Make federal and state income tax-free withdrawals when used for qualified disability expenses.
- Open accounts that are exempt from Pennsylvania inheritance tax.
For more information on PA ABLE, please visit www.paable.gov.
Tax Amnesty Program
I want to remind everyone again of the Pennsylvania Tax Amnesty program. This program was authorized by Act 84 of 2016. The PA Tax Amnesty program represents a limited opportunity for individuals and businesses to pay past-due taxes with all penalties and half of the interest waived. The program opened on April 21 and will close on June 19.
Individuals and businesses with unfiled or unpaid Pennsylvania taxes due as of the end of 2015 are generally eligible for the Tax Amnesty program. Delinquent taxpayers known to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will receive a written notice by mail informing them of tax delinquencies and the availability of the PA Tax Amnesty program. Those who are eligible but do not take advantage of the Tax Amnesty program will receive a five percent penalty on amnesty eligible liabilities that remain unpaid after June 19.
While tax amnesty is an incentive for individuals who are delinquent on their taxes to pay immediately, they will still pay more than if they paid their taxes on time.
There are currently 862,598 taxpayers eligible for the program with more than 680,000 from Pennsylvania. There are nearly 60,000 delinquent taxpayers in Allegheny County.
Anyone interested in applying or learning more can call 1-844-PA-STATE-TAX (1-844-727-8283). You can also apply online at www.backtax.pa.gov and click on the “Apply Now” tab. Applications must be submitted by June 19.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
I want to remind everyone that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past the eligibility limits.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Senior 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 Nov. 30 on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.
Some examples of produce that may be purchased under 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 on June 13 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 who will be 60 years old by December 31, 2017. The income limit for a one-person household is $22,311 and is $30,044 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 the 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.
Did You Know…
Did you know that according to a Reader’s Digest report, for every $100 spent at a farmers' market, $62 goes back into the local economy, and $99 out of $100 stays within the state?
Bellevue Borough Celebrating 150 Years
Bellevue Borough is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017! From June 8-11, the community is welcome to attend a celebration of Bellevue that will include a Fireman’s Parade, carnival, live entertainment, arts and crafts, and much more. For a complete schedule of events for the weekend, please visit http://www.bonafidebellevue.com/ or click here.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Western/Central Pennsylvania is hosting the 29th annual Family Fun Run/Walk for Epilepsy on Saturday, June 19 at PNC Park. This family friendly 5K run/2 mile walk around the North Shore is a great way to raise funds and awareness for those with epilepsy/seizure disorders. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the run/walk starting at 9:30 a.m. Immediately following the run/walk will be a tailgate party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
All proceeds from the event will stay in the region to provide well-needed programs and supportive services for children, families, and adults with epilepsy/seizure disorders. To learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation of Western/Central Pennsylvania or to register for the Family Fun Run/Walk, please visit www.efwp.org or call 412-322-5880.
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in the United States. Less than five percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week. More information on the importance of physical activity can be found at www.fitness.gov.
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