After speaking to the
Construction Legislative Council (CLC) last week, Senator Fontana is
presented a gift from CLC Vice Chairman Bill Ligetti.
PA Works – Focusing on Small Business
As I announced last week, the Senate Democrats have rolled out a six-point jobs
PA Works that is focused on creating jobs, reducing spending and giving
businesses incentives to make community investments. The six areas include small
business, workforce training, critical state investments, clean and green
energy, infrastructure investment, and tax fairness.
One of my priorities as this plan was being developed was to find ways to help
small business. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. They
represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, employ half of all private sector
employees, pay 45 percent of total U.S.
payroll and have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the
last decade. Quite clearly, they are the key to our recovery.
There are five main components of our plan to put small business first. First,
we propose that the Small Business First Fund be retooled to increase maximum
loan amounts and repayment periods and decrease maximum interest rates for all
Second, we want to increase access to capital, by loosening the restrictions and
refocusing the Second State Loan Guarantee Program with $50 million to be used
to spur private banks and other commercial lenders. Eligible small businesses
could obtain a guarantee of up to 100% of the principal amount of the loan up to
$2 million, to encourage lending in what remains a tight credit market. The plan
also expands eligibility to local governmental agencies that make loans and
opens the program to all industry sectors.
Third, we would like to empower the Small Business Council. I was honored to be
appointed to this Council last year. The members are focused, determined and
want to work proactively to make a real impact for small businesses. By revising
the law that established the Council, their voice becomes stronger with
increased powers and duties. All executive agencies submitting proposed
rulemakings would also be required to submit them to the council for review,
comment, objection and recommendations as permitted under the Regulatory Review
Act. The Council would also have the opportunity to visit with each executive
agency at least once every two years to review their policies and regulations
and make recommendations.
Fourth, we propose making the Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credits more
accessible by providing small businesses and non-profit groups increased access
to the program by
claimants to claim credits against employee payroll taxes.
Finally, the Procurement Code would be modernized to promote small and
disadvantaged business participation in government contracting through
establishment of a statewide bonding program, a mentor-protégé program, and
other targeted initiatives to increase the ability of small businesses to
compete for these contracts.
As we continue to develop and tweak this plan and expand on each of these areas,
I will share that information with you and hope that you will also feel free to
weigh in with your thoughts.
Vice Chairman of PHEAA
I am honored to have been elected Vice Chairman of the PA
Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Board of Directors by my peers on the
Board during last week’s meeting in Harrisburg. I am proud of the opportunity
the Board has given me and look forward to continuing to work with all Board
members in addressing the education issues facing our students and their
One of my priorities
in my role as Senator is making sure
students have the tools they need to
find and apply for student assistance.
As I receive information that may be
helpful to you, I will pass it along in
the News & Views. If you haven’t
already, I encourage you to visit
website for the latest financial aid
information, helpful tips and
information on upcoming deadlines and
free workshops. The website also has
useful information on careers and how to
find a school that best fits your needs.
IRS Free File Tax
income taxpayers can once again take
advantage of free tax preparation
services available through the IRS Free
File program. Through the program,
eligible taxpayers have free access to
popular tax preparation software. The
program provides step-by-step help for
preparing, completing and filing federal
tax returns. Any taxpayer with a 2010
Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 or less
can file for free by visiting the
To begin, click on the "Free File" icon
on the website. Users will find a list
of Free File Alliance member companies
and may either choose the one that fits
their needs or utilize the "help me find
a company" tool. After selecting a
company, users will be transferred to
that company's website to prepare,
complete and electronically file their
federal income tax returns. Three of the
19 participating software companies also
offer services in Spanish. As a
reminder, the deadline to file your
taxes this year is April 18th.
Educational Partnership Program Grants
and educational institutions can apply
for Dominion Educational Partnership
Program grants of up to $10,000 to help
students in kindergarten through 12th
grade strengthen their science and math
skills. Schools should submit proposals
in the fields of:
Education- projects to develop math
and/or science skills through the
study of the environment; or
designed to increase students’
awareness of energy efficiency and
conservation, energy sources or
other energy-related topics.
Dominion will also
award mini-grants of up to $1,000 for
projects that enhance the teaching of
science and math. The grant program is
meant to help educators revitalize math
and science programs and improve student
achievement. Applications are available
Dominion’s website and must be
submitted by May 1st. The website has
more information on the program and tips
for preparing an application. The
company will award about $500,000 worth
of grants in several states.
Food Bank Fundraiser
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is holding its 16th annual Empty
Bowls fundraiser this month and there are several ways you can contribute. The
Empty Bowls Dinner will take place Sunday, March 6th from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at
Rodef Shalom Congregation (Fifth and Morewood Avenues in Oakland). The dinner
features a variety of soups from restaurants across the region and
family-friendly entertainment. Tickets for the dinner are
and can be ordered by visiting the
Food Bank’s website.
Tickets include a meal of soup and bread and your choice of a handmade bowl as a
reminder of those whose bowls are empty.
There will also be a celebrity bowl auction. Participants can bid on autographed
bowls from celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney, Jackie Evancho, Sidney
Crosby, and many more. The Empty Bowls fundraiser benefits the Greater
Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest, two organizations that help
struggling families put food on the table. For more information visit the Food
Bank’s website, where you can also make a contribution of your choice to the
Free Nicotine Patches Available
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is offering free nicotine replacement
therapy kits to help Pennsylvanians that want to quit smoking. Kits are
available through the state’s Free Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) through the month
of March, or while supplies last. When you call, a “quit coach” will help you
set a quit date and ask if you have any medical conditions that would rule out
the use of nicotine patches. Callers can then enroll in a series of free
counseling sessions. The therapy kits are paid for by funding from the federal
stimulus program and a nationwide settlement with the tobacco industry.
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five deaths
nationwide is attributed to smoking. To get more information about quitting
Around the District
It was a short week last week with
President’s Day, but there were still
many meetings and activities scheduled
in that short span. On Tuesday, I met
Housing Alliance of PA which also
brought representatives from the
McKees Rocks Community Development
Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group
and a former resident of Beltzhoover.
Wednesday, the Senate Democratic Caucus
announced its jobs proposal –
PA Works, which I referenced in the
article above. The work on this
continues with a Southwestern PA
announcement being made this Friday in
Pittsburgh. Also, on Wednesday, our
Policy Committee held a meeting to
determine direction for the coming year.
I am proud to be part of a leadership
team that is far more inclusive and
directed than it has been in the past.
On Thursday, as I also noted above, the
PHEAA Board Meeting was held at which I
was elected Vice Chairman of the Board
by my fellow board members. On Friday, I
was back in Pittsburgh with meetings
with the new Executive Director of
Economic Development South and one of
their board members.
Yesterday, in addition to a leadership
meeting and session, the House and
Senate also held a Legislative Symposium
on Vouchers at the State Museum.
Did you know that bituminous coal was
first mined in Pennsylvania on Mount
Washington, also known as Coal Hill?
Bituminous coal is one of the more
common types of coal, and is also
referred to as black coal. The coal was
extracted from drift mines and
transported by canoe. By the 1830’s, the
City of Pittsburgh consumed more than
400 tons of bituminous coal per day.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana