|Senator Fontana spoke at a press conference on January 30th where Senate Democrats outlined their priorities for the 2014-15 state budget. Senator Fontana was joined at the press conference by
Senator Matt Smith and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.
Budgets Should Reflect and Promote Priorities
In anticipation of the unveiling of Governor Corbett’s budget proposal today, I joined some of my fellow Democratic colleagues at a news conference in Pittsburgh last week to highlight what will be our caucus’ 2014-15 budget priorities. We stand together to call on Governor Corbett to assist Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable and in need. Over the past several budget cycles, this administration has stripped the state of its safety net for the poor, disabled, and elderly. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken away from educating the Commonwealth’s youngest residents while at the same time using classroom teaching and tools as bargaining mechanisms for possible future cuts. Instead, this administration has focused its priorities on cutting corporate taxes for large businesses and industries at the expense of vulnerable families and the unemployed.
Our 2014-15 budget priorities emphasize job creation, education investments, and the expansion of Medicaid so more residents can receive health care. Minimum wage is also something our caucus would like to see increased so that more adults can start receiving living wages to support their families and loved ones. By focusing on these initiatives and investments, Pennsylvanians would no longer have to rely so much on safety nets provided by the state.
The Senate Democrats would like to:
- Invest in Education
- $300 million investment for FY 2014-15 with an emphasis on early learning support
- Commitment to restore education funding that helps local schools recover from deep cuts by this administration
- Expand Medicaid
- Provide coverage for an additional 500,000 Pennsylvania families
- Produce $400 million in state budget savings /
- Invest in Human Service Programs
- Use Medicaid expansion savings for $85 million investment in county Human Service Programs
- Adopt managed-care oversight for additional budget savings
- Increase the Minimum Wage
- Raise the minimum wage to at least $9 per hour by 2015
- Apply inflation index to prevent families from falling into poverty
- Jobs and Economic Development
- Create jobs through infrastructure investment
- Match training with employer needs
- Adopt PA Works plan
Senate Democrats have also identified about $1.1 billion in savings:
- Expanded Medicaid ($400 million)
- Expand health insurance to more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians
- Produce $4 billion in new federal funds
- Escheat Reform ($150 million)
- Shorten the timeframe to reinvest unclaimed property
- Make it easier to sell the items or convert cash to benefit taxpayers
- Wine and Spirits Modernization ($125 million)
- Flexibility and efficiency in hours, pricing, personnel, and procurement
- Enhance customer convenience to increase annual profits
- Charter School Funding Reform ($85.5 million)
- End the process of double payments for charter school pensions
- Pennsylvania and PSERS currently make payments to cover pension costs
- Capital Stock and Franchise tax phase-out freeze ($75 million)
- Freeze the Capital Stock and Franchise tax phase out at .67 mills
- Tax is currently scheduled to be eliminated by 2015
- Multi-state claims processing for SSP/SSI ($75 million)
- Create a multi-state association to process SSP/SSI claims
- Generate profit by providing collection service to other states
- Enhanced tax collection ($55 million)
- Enhance collection of delinquent debt through federal/state/local partnership
- Payments include tax returns and contract payments
- Medicaid Managed Care ($50 million)
- Change Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program
- Include more community-based care options in managed care
- Vendor sales tax discount elimination ($40 million)
- Eliminate sizable discounts for larger merchants
- Merchants have received discounts if taxes are a paid on time
- Small businesses would be exempt from any change
The current administration has moved Pennsylvania in the wrong direction. In job creation alone, the Commonwealth has gone from the top 10 to the bottom 10 among all states. Our residents can no longer survive on minimum resources. This proposal will once again invest in our children, our communities and the economy. Senate Democrats believe we have created a solid priorities plan that not only gives back to the people but no longer allows big corporations to get bigger while families struggle to make ends meet.
Did You Know…
Did you know that every $1 increase in the minimum wage translates to an increase in spending by a worker’s household by $2,800?
Pittsburgh Public Market Re-Opens
Senator Fontana participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony at the grand re-opening of the Pittsburgh Public Market at its new location, 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip District on January 31st. Pictured with Senator Fontana are, State Representative Adam Ravenstahl, Congressman Mike Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and State Senator Jim Ferlo.
On January 31st I was pleased to participate in the grand re-opening ceremony for the Pittsburgh Public Market (PPM) at its new location, 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip District. As a member of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County board of directors, I was proud to support PPMs’ Community Infrastructure & Tourism Fund application that helped make this market a reality.
PPM was originally opened by Neighbors in the Strip in 2010 as an affordable venue for local businesses to launch or expand their business, test products, and gain valuable experience to grow their business while making local, healthy foods and locally-produced products more accessible to residents of our region. Speaking with merchants after the grand re-opening, there is a lot of excitement about the new space on Penn Avenue and the possibilities that exist for the PPM to become a destination for residents and travelers.
If you have an opportunity, I encourage you to visit the Market and see what these merchants have to offer. For more information on the Pittsburgh Public Market, you can visit them online at www.pittsburghpublicmarket.org.
Senator Fontana, pictured here with Senator Ferlo, took time after the ceremony to visit with local merchants.
DCNR Recreation & Conservation Grants
I want to remind everyone that the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is accepting grant applications for recreation and conservation grants through April 16th. Grant assistance from DCNR helps communities and organizations plan, acquire, and develop parks, recreation facilities, trails, and conserved critical conservation areas and watersheds. The 2014 DCNR grant program encourages applications that advance local conservation and recreation vision and implements Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and DCNR's Strategic Plan.
Specific priorities for grant proposals include:
- Sustainable and green park development and planning
- Major park and recreation rehabilitation projects that modernize facilities and bring them into compliance with the current standards for safety, ADA, and the Universal Construction Code
- Trail projects that close gaps in major statewide greenways and regionally significant trails and planning to help communities become bicycle and pedestrian friendly
- Land conservation to protect critical habitat, forested watersheds, wetlands, and riparian corridors and lands that conserve connectors between public lands, or conserve urban green space
- Rivers conservation projects that enhance water trails, improve public access and/or increase awareness of Pennsylvania rivers
- Emerging trends including off-leash dog parks, splash/spray parks, skate parks and community parks that feature green amenities such as gardens and natural areas that connect children to nature
- Statewide and regional partnerships that build capacity to promote outdoor recreation and conservation of natural and heritage resources
All applications must be submitted electronically through the Environmental eGrants System. All grant information, project guidance documents, program policies and application instructions are available on the site. For assistance with the System, please call DCNR’s Grants Customer Service Center at 1-800-326-7734 or email DCNR-Grants@pa.gov.
Summer Environmental Career Camps for Students
DCNR is once again holding the “Exploring Careers Outdoors Camp” this summer for students interested in pursuing environmental careers. The six-day camp begins on Sunday, July 13th at Kirby Episcopal House and Chapel in Luzerne County, near Nescopeck State Park.
The camp is open to students in grades 10 through 12 and will introduce them to conservation and environmental careers. Daily activities will offer students a hands-on, team-building learning experience in an outdoor setting. Some of the subjects involve wildlife conservation, stream sampling of aquatic life, and forestry. The camp’s participants will be exposed to a wide range of career experiences, including water quality assessments, geology field studies, and overnight camping. Specialists and officials with DCNR’s bureau of state parks, forestry and topographic and geologic survey will offer instruction and oversee the camp.
If you have a student interested in pursuing an environmental career and would like more information on this camp, please visit the ECO Camp page at www.dcnr.state.pa.us. On that site, you can also download a camp brochure and application. You may also call 724-865-7857 for more information. Applications must be received by April 15th.
Making $ense of Finance
The Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance is hosting the first “Making $ense of Finance” on Saturday, March 1st at PNC Park. The free conference will run from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and is open to members of the military, veterans, and spouses. The conference program will be geared specifically towards the financial and investing challenges faced by members of the military and veterans. Workshops led by experts in the following areas will be available at the conference: investment and retirement basics; understanding credit reports and credit scores; personal risk management and insurance; budgeting; and protecting your identity.
To register for this conference, you may call 717-705-2687 or visit www.dobs.state.pa.us. Breakfast, lunch and parking will be provided but space is limited and registration is required. The first 200 people to register will receive a $25 gift card for attending and participating in the conference.
Making $ense of Finance is made possible through the Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance, a cooperative effort of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Department of Banking and Securities, Office of the Attorney General, Army OneSource, Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania, Liberty USO, and Advantage Credit Counseling Services.
History Center Celebrates Black History Month
February is Black History Month and the Heinz History Center is planning several programs as part of this recognition. Visitors can journey through 250 years of African American history as part of the museum’s award-winning exhibition, From Slavery to Freedom. The long-term exhibit, which chronicles the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad, and the impact of 19th century activism on the modern quest for civil and human rights, contains several new features.
The History Center will also be featuring additional activities throughout the month to recognize Black History Month. Tomorrow, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will link high school students across the country to the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi for an engaging program focusing on the history and legacy of the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education as part of the National Youth Summit: Freedom Summer. On February 15th, Elise Wilms will share traditional African American recipes in the museum’s Weisbrod Kitchen Classroom. The same day, Samuel W. Black, the History Center’s Director of African American Programs, will present a special lecture looking specifically at the history of the abolition movement and slavery in western Pennsylvania and how it affects today’s opinions.
These are just some of the programs being presented by the Heinz History Center. To view a full listing of activities throughout February, please visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln
The Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History, with the support of my colleague Senator Jim Ferlo, is holding the grand opening of their exhibit “The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln: a National Photographic Exhibition” this Saturday, February 8th at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall. The event is free and open to the public and will run from 6 – 8 p.m. and is both educational and appropriate for all ages.
The exhibit illustrates how President Lincoln’s effort to save the Union transformed our nation, the Constitution, and the world and highlights several of the struggles Lincoln endured during his time in office including: secession; civil liberties; slavery; and his personal life. The Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History has secured over 100 original photographs, dozens of artifacts, oil paintings, documents signed by Lincoln, and military maps from the Civil War that comprise the exhibit. The event will also include re-enactors from the Civil War era.
For more information on the grand opening and other educational exhibits, please visit www.photoantiquities.org. The Photo Antiquities Museum is a non-profit organization located on Pittsburgh’s North Side. You may also call 412-231-7881 or 412-621-3006 for more information.
According to Pittsburgh Today, the Pittsburgh region’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 percent at the end of 2012 to 6.6 percent at the end of 2013. By November 2013, nearly 1.3 million people from the region were employed and employment has hit record levels for the region in 18 of the last 22 months.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216