Last week Governor Wolf delivered his 2017-18 state budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly. The $32.3 billion proposed budget represents a slight increase in overall spending with no broad based tax increase being offered. I heard several encouraging proposals and initiatives in the governor’s speech last week and some other items that will require further review and consideration.
The governor’s budget continues to invest in our most precious resource, our children, providing an additional $200 million for schools. These additional state dollars would give our students the resources they need at the same time helping local districts hold the line on property taxes. The proposed budget raises basic education funding by $100 million, vital Pre-K programs by $75 million and special education by $25 million.
I was extremely pleased to see the governor place an emphasis on job growth and investment in the manufacturing sector. It is imperative that we again invest in Pennsylvania workers and doing so also will aide in shoring up our state’s financial standing. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the governor’s “Manufacturing in PA” initiative that connects research universities and Industrial Resource Centers to help generate 6,000 manufacturing jobs, leverage $30 million in matching funds and infuse $950 million dollars into our economy. A new job training apprenticeship grant program will assist these endeavors while helping to boost the middle class and provide more opportunities for workers.
It is past time that we raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania which has not seen an increase since 2009. The governor has proposed incorporating a minimum wage increase into this year’s budget. Numerous studies have shown that a moderate minimum wage hike would relieve stress on taxpayer-funded assistance programs, inject dollars into our economy from increased consumer spending and most importantly, help working families who struggle to make ends meet.
I appreciate the governor’s efforts to invest our scarce resources wisely by focusing on spending cuts and service consolidation rather than tax increases. The governor is proposing the consolidation of health-related agencies in an effort to streamline operations, save money and improve service. A new Department of Criminal Justice would be formed, consisting of the merging of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole. The governor is also proposing converting tax credit incentive programs into a block grant.
These consolidations and service cuts however are also parts of the governor’s budget proposal that need to be further examined to better understand the potential impact on constituents in the 42nd Senatorial District. The Neighborhood Assistance Program and the Film Tax Credit program are examples of two programs that have greatly benefited neighborhoods and constituents in my district and are programs I have always advocated for. We need to examine how proposed changes to these programs would be administered and what the potential effects would be.
In the coming weeks this proposal will be analyzed and debated in budget hearings. As we address the budget this year, keeping in mind that we face a potential $3 billion deficit, it is important the negotiations are both constructive and bi-partisan. I look forward to continued review of this proposal and look forward to hearing from constituents as we move through the budget process.
To read the governor’s budget proposal in full please visit www.budget.pa.gov.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 20 in observance of Presidents’ Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, Feb. 21 as scheduled.
Restitution for Scam Victims
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently announced a settlement with the Western Union Company, requiring the company to install strong anti-fraud measures to protect consumers from being victimized by scams requiring them to send money to third parties through Western Union. In addition to Pennsylvania, 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement.
As part of the settlement, Western Union has agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for states’ costs and fees. Pennsylvania will receive a portion of that total. In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. As part of those settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to a fund that the U.S. Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including victims in Pennsylvania. Of the $586 million, Pennsylvania consumers may be eligible for up to $21.5 million in restitution.
If you were a victim of this type of scam and want to learn more about whether you are eligible for restitution, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-mlars/remission or click here.
Individuals who believe they have been contacted by a scam artist are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov to file a complaint online.
Did You Know…
Did you know in 2016 over $81 million was lost by consumers who fell victims to various types of scams?
Property Tax/Rent Rebate
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now 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.
Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is now accepting applications from non-profits and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program. Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and community revitalization.
Two categories of grants – project and construction – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant.
Project grants are available for planning and development initiatives that enhance historic preservation in communities. Project grant applications may include municipal planning initiatives focusing on historic resources or may be used to meet building- or project-specific planning goals. Keystone Historic Preservation Project Grants are available between $5,000 and $25,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.
Construction grants are available for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration activities for historic resources that are publicly accessible and under non-profit or local government ownership. Keystone Historic Preservation Construction Grants are available between $5,000 and $100,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.
A total of $1.5 million has been set aside for this program and the application deadline is March 1. Grants will be awarded through a competitive selection process and are contingent on availability of funds. Applicants are required to use the web-based electronic grant application process. For more information, including grant program guidelines, please visit the PHMC online at www.phmc.pa.gov.
Civic Leadership Academy
The City of Pittsburgh’s Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) program is accepting applications through Feb. 28 from city residents or business owners that are interested in participating. CLA is an engaging 10-week program that opens the doors of local government to the community and was created to foster informed, effective, and inspired community leadership. The program includes tours, hands-on demonstrations, and other fun activities that give participants an insider view on how the City of Pittsburgh operates.
For more information on the program please click here or visit http://pittsburghpa.gov/servepgh/cla. You may also contact Corey Buckner, the CLA coordinator, for more details by calling 412-255-2694 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dormont Library Workshops
Dormont Library has recently launched two new programs. The first is a Resume and Cover Letter Workshop presented by Keith Gillogly and Brittany Page. This workshop is scheduled for Saturdays at noon. Keith and Brittany will work one-on-one with individuals to show them how to develop and design a sharp, competitive resume or cover letter. Those with resumes and cover letters already established are also welcome to work with instructors in order to review and correct any underlying issue they may have. Registration is required for this program. There is a limit to two students per class. Make sure to bring a flash drive and any written work when attending.
The library is also presenting a Writers’ Salon open to adults 18 and older every Saturday in February. This program is designed to allow guests to share ideas and push their creativity to the limit in a self-guided, fun, and relaxed environment. Registration is required for this program and there is a limit to 20 people.
To register for these two programs or for more information, please contact the library at email@example.com or 412-531-8754.
Gerald Ford, our 38th president, was the first person to be both vice president and president without being elected by the people. He was appointed vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and he succeeded to the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.
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