In this Edition:
Budget Impasse: How We Got Here
Budget Impasse: How We Got Here
Following the prolonged effort to pass a state budget this year can be difficult. Below is a recap of the General Assembly’s effort to enact a Fiscal Year 2015-16 spending plan.
March 3: Gov. Tom Wolf introduced a $33.8 billion budget that included a 16 percent increase in spending and $4.7 billion in new taxes.
June 1: The Governor’s budget proposal received no legislative support when it came before the full House and was voted down unanimously 0-193.
June 30: After Gov. Wolf’s budget failed, the General Assembly passed an on-time, balanced budget without increasing taxes on Pennsylvanians. This plan provided increased funding for pre K-12 education, higher education and critical health-related line items and also enabled the Pennsylvania State Police to hire 350 new troopers.
June 30: The Governor vetoed the entire budget, marking the first time in 39 years a Pennsylvania Governor had done so. This was in spite of the fact that 274 of the 401 line items in the General Assembly’s budget contained equal or greater levels of funding than the Governor’s proposal. An entire veto of the budget was unnecessary because the Governor of Pennsylvania has the authority to line-item veto portions of the budget passed by the General Assembly. By vetoing the entire budget, Gov. Wolf withheld billions of dollars for schools and service providers.
Aug. 19: Legislative leaders offered a compromise to Gov. Wolf. This plan included an additional $300 million in education funding, bringing the education funding increase to a total of $400 million, as the Governor originally requested. This offer also included a limited pension reform proposal and liquor privatization proposal. The compromise proposal was also rejected by the governor.
Aug. 25: The General Assembly attempted to override the Governor’s veto of several line items in the original budget proposal. This override would have restored funding for rape crisis centers, juvenile probation services, cancer screening services, and the Red Cross Extended Care Program. Unfortunately, when the override came before the full House for consideration, it failed on a party-line vote of 115-83, with Republicans voting to release funding for these programs and Democrats opposed. In order for an override to occur, two-thirds, or 136 members, would have had to vote in favor.
Sept. 24: The General Assembly passed emergency funding for education and human service agencies. This legislation would have provided four months of funding for the organizations while the Governor and the General Assembly continue to negotiate a compromise on a full year’s budget.
Sept. 29: Gov. Wolf vetoed the emergency funding. As a result, many schools and agencies are borrowing money and incurring interest costs or closing their doors to those who rely on their services.
Oct. 7: The House of Representatives voted on Gov. Wolf’s latest budget proposal. It would have raised taxes by $1.4 billion in the first year of implementation and $2.46 billion the next year. Ninety-five percent of this new tax revenue would have been generated by the increased Personal Income Tax that is paid by individuals and small businesses. The House, in a bipartisan vote, voted down the proposal 73-127.
Oct. 28: Senate Republicans led an effort to override Gov. Wolf’s September 29 veto of emergency funding. The override would have provided badly needed funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no Democrat support.
As you can see, the Governor’s approach has been to withhold funding from schools and critical social services in an attempt to force the General Assembly to approve massive tax and spending increases. There is simply not enough support among legislators or taxpayers for his plan, and it’s long past the time for the Governor to acknowledge that and negotiate a budget in good faith.
Veterans Appreciation Breakfast
Veterans are invited to attend my annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast which will be held on Saturday, November 7 from 7:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the Upper Perkiomen High School, Two Walt Road, Pennsburg. The event will feature Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, Congressman Ryan Costello, and PA State Representatives Justin Simmons and Marcy Toepel. The guest speaker for the event will be Captain Joanne Powell-Smith.
Veterans must register themselves and up to one guest by contacting my office at 215-541-2388 or online at www.senatormensch.com/veterans-appreciation-breakfast. Registration will begin at 7:45 a.m. and breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Protect Yourself, Protect Your Money
Constituents are invited to attend my “Protect Yourself, Protect Your Money” seminar on Friday, November 13, featuring special guest speaker Katrina Boyer, Consumer Outreach Liaison at the Pennsylvania Department of Banking. Ms. Boyer will discuss some of the top financial scams targeting consumers and investors, including how to identify a Ponzi scheme, home improvement scams and affinity fraud.
The event will take place at 10 a.m. at St. Luke Knolls located at 1 Knoll Lane in Gilbertsville. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP by calling 215-541-2388.
We have additional events in the 24th district that are fast approaching. Simply visit the events page on my website or call my Red Hill office at 215-541-2388 to find out if there are any events that pertain to you and your interests.
Coffee with Your Senator
Please join me Thursday, December 10 for coffee and discussion of state topics. Bring a friend and any questions you may have.
The gathering will take place from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Upper Bucks Senior/Activity Center located at the Milford Square Fire Company Social Hall at 2183 Milford Square Pike, Milford.
The event is free. For more information and to RSVP, please call our Pennsburg office at 215-541-2388.
Spotted Lantern Fly Quarantine
On September 22, 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, confirmed the presence the Spotted Lanternfly in Berks County Pennsylvania, the first detection of this invasive non-native species in the United States.
Upon determination that the potential impact to Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy and natural resources was great, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine with the intent to restrict the movement of the Spotted Lanternfly on November 1, 2014. To date, several municipalities in Berks and Montgomery counties are under a limited movement quarantine as the department and its federal, state, local and non-governmental cooperators develop a strategy to eliminate this pest from the Commonwealth.
The quarantine includes Upper Hanover Township and the boroughs of East Greenville, Pennsburg, and Red Hill in Montgomery County. In addition, it includes Colebrookdale, District, Earl, Hereford, Longswamp, Oley, Pike, Rockland and Washington townships and the boroughs of Bally, Bechtelsville and Topton in Berks County.
The general quarantine restricts movement of any material or object that can spread the pest. This includes firewood or wood products, brush or yard waste, remodeling or construction materials and waste, packing material like boxes, grapevines for decorative purposes or as nursery stock, and any outdoor household articles like lawnmowers, grills, tarps and any other equipment, trucks or vehicles not stored indoors.
Businesses in the general quarantine area need to obtain a Certificate of Limited Permit from the department in order to move articles. Criminal and civil penalties of up to $20,000 and prison time can be imposed for violations by businesses or individuals.
The Spotted Lanternfly, which has no known impacts to human health, is an inch-long black, red and white spotted pest and is native to China, India, Japan and Vietnam. It’s an invasive species in Korea, where it has attacked 25 plant species which also grow in Pennsylvania.
Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, attacks grapes, apples, pines and stone fruits. It often attaches to the bark of Tree of Heaven – sometimes referred to as Paradise Tree – an invasive species similar to Sumac that can be found around parking lots or along tree lines. Adults often cluster in groups and lay egg masses containing 30-50 eggs that adhere to flat surfaces including tree bark. Freshly laid egg masses have a grey waxy mud-like coating, while hatched eggs appear as brownish seed-like deposits in four to seven columns about an inch long. Trees attacked by the Spotted Lanternfly will show a grey or black trail of sap down the trunk.
All Pennsylvanians are encouraged to watch for the Spotted Lanternfly and offered the following suggestions :
While Pennsylvanians can submit suspect eggs to the department headquarters in Harrisburg or to its six regional office locations, county Penn State Extension offices are often a closer, faster option.
For more information about the Spotted Lanternfly, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov and search “lanternfly.”
LIHEAP Accepting Energy Assistance Applications
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP, helps low-income families pay their heating bills. LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant, sent directly to the utility company, or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat.
Applications can be submitted starting November 2, 2015. You can apply for LIHEAP online, on paper or in person.
My office will have applications available in the near future. Call 215-541-2388 to reserve your copy. Applications can be picked up at my Red Hill office or mailed directly to you.
The Mensch Report
Click to watch show
This edition of the Mensch Report features my recent event with Representative Toepel at Encore Experiences. We held a Child Protection Background Check Seminar in order to help constituents learn more about the new child protection measures and how it may apply to them/their organization.
APPRISE – A Medicare Counseling Program
APPRISE is a free health insurance counseling program designed to assist older Pennsylvanians with Medicare.
Counselors are trained volunteers who can answer questions about Medicare.They provide objective, easy-to-understand information about Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurance, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance in order for older adults to compare plans and determine which one meets their needs.
Pennsylvania has over 670 trained APPRISE volunteers who provided 82,000 counseling hours this past year.
APPRISE volunteers work through local Area Agencies on Aging to address questions and concerns of older adults. Area Agencies on Aging offer enrollment events where older adults can receive guidance on Medicare health and prescription plans.
To find an enrollment event, call 1-800-783-7067 or to learn more about the APPRISE program, visit www.aging.state.pa.us.
Consumers can also complete their own plan comparisons by accessing the plan finder tool on the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
Twitter and Facebook: I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.
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