I am very pleased with the early passage of the 2018-19 Pennsylvania budget. In particular, the $32.7 billion fiscal plan holds the line on taxes, keeps spending under the inflation level and staves off future financial problems by putting dollars aside in the state’s ‘rainy day’ fund.
- Basic Education will see an additional $100 million resulting in a record total of $6.1 billion
- An increase of $20 million for Pre-K Counts, $5 million for Head Start and $21.6 million for Early Intervention
- An additional allocation of $15 million for special education resulting in a total of $1.14 billion
- A new $60 million grant program for an initiative to fight school violence
- $10 million for school safety
- Expands the Educational Improvement Tax Credit by $25 million to $160 million which helps students attend private schools
- Increases aid for PA Smart that expands high-demand computer and industrial skills training in high schools and colleges by $40 million, or 62 percent, to $104 million
- Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln Universities will see a 3 percent increase, which is $16.9 million more
- The State System of Higher Education is receiving a 3.3 percent increase, or $15 million, for a total of $468 million
- $6.963 million more for community colleges
- PHEAA Institutional Assistance Grants will see a $772,000 increase
Health and Human Services
- $6.8 million more for subsidized child care services for low-income families, for a total of $162.5 million
- An increase of $5.3 million to provide home-visiting services for families affected by the opioid epidemic
- Increased funding to assist 965 more people with intellectual disabilities and autism
- State Food Purchase Program/Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System will see $500,000 more for a total of $19.7 million
- $2.5 million to raise awareness, prevention and surveillance of Lyme Disease
- $15 million for PA First Program tool that is used to facilitate investment and job creation in the state
- $12 million for Manufacturing PA that accelerates manufacturing technology advancement
- $9.8 million for Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance
- $500,000 for Super Computing Center
- Department of Environmental Protection will receive a $139,000 increase to pay for West Nile and Zika virus control bringing their total to $5.4 million
- A 4.5% increase, or $3.975 million, for environmental protection operations that will enable the department to hire 35 additional employees
- A 10 percent increase for state park operations for a total of $56.185 million
- Department of Military Affairs will receive $5.7 million more for the state’s six veterans’ homes for a total of $104.1 million.
I am very pleased that even under these spending constraints, the General Assembly was able to make increased investments in education and economic development which is an investment in our future. It’s also worth emphasizing that proven economic development programs provide for a sound return on our investment. During the 2016-17 fiscal year, it is estimated that these programs leveraged $59 million to generate $1.7 billion in private investment. With this budget in place, I hope we can focus on additional ways to enhance economic opportunity, increase pay for workers and continue revitalizing our communities.
Zero Tolerance is Not the Solution
Imagine being three years old and your mom tells you to pack up a couple items of clothing in a small backpack and your favorite stuffed animal. You question where you are going and she tells you that “we” are going to a better place. Being three, you don’t exactly understand what she means but you assume it will be to somewhere fun and perhaps some toys will be there. Of course, your mother is accompanying you so there is nothing to be afraid of.
Now imagine arriving at this “better place” and strangers take you from your mother’s arms as you witness your parent being handcuffed. Confused and significantly upset, you look to your mom to comfort you only to realize your mother has disappeared. Now you are alone in a scary room full of strangers and dozens of other crying kids. You question yourself. Where did my mom go? Why did she leave me? Did I do something bad? Is she coming back for me? Nothing is making sense.
The United States has stooped to an unimaginable level with the handling of those who are illegally entering America. Families are crossing the border for various reasons, but mostly because things are so bad in their homeland that they feel they have no other options. We need to step back and reflect that the children are not the ones at fault here. Children are mentally unable to understand the magnitudes of their parents’ decisions to cross the border. They are also the ones that will suffer psychological effects the most.
I have and will continue to stand by my State and Congressional colleagues to end this zero-tolerance policy. It is inhumane to think we are fostering an environment where separating children from their caregivers is the protocol and with no immediate plans to reunite them. This must stop and it must stop now. The United States is better than this.
Alternative Fuel Transportation Initiatives
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting grant applications through July 13 for innovative, advanced fuel, and vehicle technology projects that will result in cleaner advanced alternative transportation within the commonwealth. DEP’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) Program offers funding for the purchase and use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles.
New this year, AFIG will give priority to projects that include the use of the funded vehicles by emergency personnel in emergency responses, rescues, and evacuations.
The AFIG Program can assist school districts, municipal authorities, nonprofits, corporations, LLCs, and partnerships registered to do business in Pennsylvania in offsetting the costs of implementing alternative fuel using transportation projects. The AFIG Program is funded by annual gross receipts tax on utilities and this year a total of $5 million is available for grants.
Applications must be submitted online through the Electronic Single Application system at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. More information on the program can be found clicking here or by visiting www.dep.state.pa.us.
Table Games Revenue Increases
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that revenue from table games play for the 12 Pennsylvania casinos in May totaled more than $74.9 million, an increase of 0.4% from May 2017 when total table games revenue totaled more than $74.4 million. Tax revenue generated from table games play in May totaled more than $12 million.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both 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.
Summer Food Program for Children
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program which began in mid-June. Summer Food will run in over 80 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838. You may also click here to view a listing of locations.
Survey on School Recess
Trying Together and the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative lead a recess advocacy team. They are a group of organizations dedicated to health and wellness, education, and play with a focus on recess practices and policies in Pre-K through 6th grade in Allegheny County. Currently, they are conducting a survey to gather information about recess from families, educators, administrators, and other school staff. If anyone is interested in participating in the survey, you can do so by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children participate in 60 minutes of “moderate to vigorous activity per day,” and suggested that recess be part of that?
Dormont Day Volunteers Needed
Dormont Day is a wonderful tradition that residents of all ages enjoy. From grab bags, to pony rides and to the wonderful Zambelli Fireworks show, there is something for everyone to enjoy. This year, Dormont Day has a great need for volunteers. The success of this event is dependent on volunteers to help set up, run the game booths, assist with the inflatables as well as the new dunk tank. Organizers also need volunteers to help clean up and sell merchandise such as the glow sticks and t-shirts. Without volunteers, many activities will not be able to be offered. Most of the volunteer blocks are only two hours; 11am-1pm, 1pm-3pm and 3pm-5pm. Volunteers will be doing a great service for Dormont and will still have time to enjoy all of the festivities of Dormont Day themselves. Families are welcome to volunteer together.
If anyone is interested in volunteering please click here or visit
Pennsylvania’s state tree has been the hemlock since 1931. The hemlock may live for 800 years or more. The thick foliage of hemlock trees shelter birds and other animals. Hemlock trees also help cool the forest in summer and block snowfall from the forest floor in winter, making it easier for animals to navigate in harsh winters.
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