Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee held the first of four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
  • Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget Get Underway
  • Additional 100,000 Older Adults Eligible for Prescription Assistance
  • Applications Being Accepted for Schools-to-Work Grants
  • Virtual Veteran Town Hall Series Set for 2022
  • Student Art Competition Raises Awareness About Ticks and Lyme Disease
  • The Hiker: How a Pa. Guardsman became the national symbol for the Spanish-American War

The Senate Appropriations Committee held the first of four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.

This week Senator Mensch got the opportunity to speak with IFO Director Matthew Knittel, State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, and Auditor General Timothy DeFoor.

Senator Mensch raised questions pertaining to Performance Based Budgeting, Audits, Inflation, and PA’s 529 College and Career Saving Program plans.

You can find both previous and future hearings here.

Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget Get Underway

The Senate Appropriations Committee held the first of four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by FY 2026-27.

The administration’s proposed massive spending increase relies on rosy revenue projections not supported by the Independent Fiscal Office. IFO Director Matthew Knittel testified that revenue projections could be revised downward depending on various factors including the end of the stimulus funding and actions at the federal level.

State Treasurer Stacy Garrity said Treasury sees the potential for sizable deficits in future years that would require tax hikes, new taxes or spending cuts to erase the deficits. She testified the governor’s budget proposal contains wildly low projected spending, particularly in human services, while it builds in unrealistic revenue assumptions.

You can find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.

Additional 100,000 Older Adults Eligible for Prescription Assistance

Legislation approved by the General Assembly in December expanding income eligibility limits for the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) program is now in effect.

The new law allows an additional 100,000 older adults to now become eligible to sign up for the program with enrollment beginning this month. The law expands the PACENET income limits by $6,000:

  • Singles: from $27,500 to $33,500
  • Married: from $35,500 to $41,500

The PACENET and PACE programs are funded with revenue from the Pennsylvania Lottery and provide comprehensive reimbursement coverage for prescription medications to qualified older Pennsylvanians. The program serves older Pennsylvanians 65 years of age and older, many of whom require multiple medications for several chronic conditions.

You can read more about PACE/PACENET, the latest expansion and the application process here.

Applications Being Accepted for Schools-to-Work Grants

State grants are available to foster partnerships between schools, employers, organizations and associations that lead to career pathways for students. The application deadline is March 15.

Eligible applicants for the Schools-to-Work Program must be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry as a pre-apprenticeship program or connected with a registered apprenticeship program. Other eligible applicants include an entity that has an established connection with a registered apprenticeship program.

Project proposals must create learning opportunities for participating students and should focus on the coordination of people and resources to help individuals on a continuous path to family-sustaining employment and career growth. The proposal must also focus on building pre-apprenticeship programs to fill current and anticipated labor market needs in the given geographical area.

Virtual Veteran Town Hall Series Set for 2022

The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has announced five Virtual Veteran Town Halls to provide veterans with a convenient platform to learn and ask questions about programs and benefits earned through their military service.

  • March 16, 5-6:30 p.m. – Veteran Suicide Prevention
  • May 18, 5-6:30 p.m. – Serving Older Veterans
  • July 13, 5-6:30 p.m. – Resources for Homeless Veterans
  • Sept. 14, 5-6:30 p.m. – Transportation Issues Facing Veterans
  • Nov. 2, 5-6:30 p.m. – Honoring Veterans for Their Service and Sacrifice

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters live during a chat feature. Visit DMVA’s website two weeks prior to each town hall for the link to participate.

Student Art Competition Raises Awareness About Ticks and Lyme Disease

As the number of Lyme disease cases in the state and across the nation continues to rise, students can use their artistic talents to raise awareness of the prevalence of ticks and the types of diseases they carry.

The Lyme Disease Art Contest is open to children in first through sixth grade. Entries must be received by March 11. Contest materials can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website. Finalists will be notified by mail and will be invited to an award ceremony in May.

There are reports of up to 10,000 Lyme disease cases per year in Pennsylvania and more are likely unreported. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a short course of antibiotics. However, if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Ticks that cause Lyme disease are found in every county and every green space, even in cities.

The Hiker: How a Pa. Guardsman became the national symbol for the Spanish-American War

The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba on Feb. 15, 1898, initiated the United States’ entry into war with Spain. The Spanish-American War and follow-on conflict in the Philippines would also initiate the call up of the National Guard across the country.

In April 1898, President William McKinley issued a call for volunteers, and the National Guard of Pennsylvania turned out for federal inspection and mustering in to service. Though 15 infantry regiments, three artillery batteries and three cavalry troops from the state would enter active service, only a handful of units would see combat action. Among those was the 4th Regiment Infantry, NGP, which would muster in as the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

The 4th Regiment was established in 1870 from militia units in Lehigh, Dauphin and Chester counties. In 1861, these militias had been the “First Defenders” to report to Washington, D.C., to defend the city at the outset of the Civil War, and in 1898 the 4th Regiment would again be the first Pennsylvania unit mustered into service for war.

After being mustered into service at Camp Hastings in Mount Gretna, Pa., the unit moved to Chickamauga, Ga., where it began drilling with other elements of the First Army Corps.

In July 1898, the 4th Pennsylvania moved first to Charleston, S.C., and then to Puerto Rico, where it joined U.S. forces clearing the island of Spanish troops. In September, the 4th Infantry would return home to the United States, and after a victory parade in Philadelphia would muster out of service.

Leonard Sefing Jr. of Allentown, Pa., had volunteered with the 4th Regiment Infantry, NGP, in May 1898 and was mustered into federal service with the unit a few days later. Sefing was only 17 years old when war broke out, but rushed to join his local National Guard company.

When the company commander questioned Sefing’s age, Sefing responded, “I’ll be 22 in August.”

“He never asked what year, and I never told him,” Sefing later said.

Sefing saw outpost duty in Puerto Rico, and later recalled watching a patrol of Spanish Soldiers cross in front of his lines at night. After service in Puerto Rico, Sefing returned to Allentown working as a jeweler, and later salesman.

As part of a nationwide competition to find an ideal model for a memorial statue of a Spanish-American War Soldier, a studio photographer in Allentown submitted a photo of Sefing. The photo was selected by sculptor Theo Alice Ruggles Hitson for the monuments model and the Allentown native and Pennsylvania National Guard veteran became the symbol of Spanish-American War remembrance in the United States.

The first of these statues was unveiled in 1906 at the University of Minnesota by Hitson, and over the next 60 years, 55 copies were produced across the country, including monuments in Pottsville, Allentown, Shamokin and Lebanon in Pennsylvania.

Sefing was proud of his Spanish-American War service and was active in local veterans organizations. During World War I, he re-entered the Army and was stationed with the newly formed Tank Corps at Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pa.

Sefing later served as commander of his local chapter of Spanish-American War Veterans, and even revisited the battlefields of Puerto Rico in the 1950s.

He died in 1971, the final surviving member of the 4th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s Spanish-American War service.

Today, when we pass a monument to “The Hiker,” we remember the sacrifice of Pennsylvania Guardsmen, including a 17-year-old volunteer from Allentown who became a national symbol of remembrance.

The lineage of Sefing’s unit, the 4th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry of 1898, is carried on today by elements of the 213th Regional Support Group in Allentown and Charlie Company, 1-111th Infantry in Kutztown.

(Editor’s note: Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Heft is a former platoon sergeant with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Philadelphia. He is currently the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Army National Guard Leader Development Program in Arlington, Va.)

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