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In this email update:
Fighting blight in our communities: A return to my Tamaqua neighborhood
WBRE reporter Haley Bianco recently interviewed me as part of a news segment, Special Report: Fight Blight.
The interview took place in the 600 block of Arlington Street in Tamaqua – the neighborhood where I grew up. Even though many of the homes are over one hundred years old and are located near reclaimed coal mines, this neighborhood shows the key to fighting blight – stop it before it ever starts!
While this neighborhood is still in good shape, there are many that are not. There are numerous properties that are not salvageable and need to be demolished. Schuylkill County was fortunate to receive a $1.4 million dollar grant earlier this year from the PA Department of Community & Economic Development exclusively for their demolition program. An estimated fifty buildings throughout Schuylkill County will be demolished through this program through June 2019. This funding will make a significant impact on the blight fight in Schuylkill County.
The State Blight Task Force, which I chair, will continue to aggressively work on this issue. The group has successfully given our local municipalities many new tools to use in combating this problem and remains committed to adding more to their arsenal.
You can watch the interview here.
Discussing anti-blight initiatives in Washington County
Last week, I joined Senator Camera Bartolotta (R- Beaver/Greene/Washington) in Washington County in southeastern PA to discuss anti-blight initiatives and tour communities in her district that have been impacted by blight and abandonment.
One particular site we visited was the demolition site of an apartment building that was in such disarray and disrepair that it collapsed on its own, trapping one victim for over 9 hours and relying on the quick actions of emergency responders and law enforcement to safely evacuate other residents.
Washington County city officials have relayed their concerns numerous times about the dangers of this 100+ year old building, as well as the landlord’s negligence in maintaining the upkeep of the property. Read more about the building collapse from the Post-Gazette here.
During the tour of this building and other blighted areas, we also discussed several laws the legislature recently passed to combat blight across the state, as well as listened to concerns from members of the Washington County community regarding the challenges they face – financial, legal and public safety – due to abandoned and dilapidated properties in their area.
Read more about my meetings in Washington County from the Observer-Reporter here.
Balancing revenue and spending in the state budget: Where is the governor?
As we continue to fine-tune all of the details of this year’s state budget, one thing is clear: while having a spending plan in place is only half the battle, we must figure out how to pay for the state’s priorities and vital services.
During this tedious bipartisan process, our goal should be to reduce the dependence on government programs across the board and downsize the scope of state government.
The actions of a governor during this process has played a major role in our state’s staggering deficit. In a recent article by Bureau Chief Chris Comisac of Capitolwire, he notes the following:
The revenues used to balance the spending plans haven’t been grounded in reality for quite a while, and when they come up short, our current governor has, unlike his predecessors, chosen not to address the shortfalls during the fiscal year in which they occur.
In years past, projected deficits were met by governors with budgetary freezes during the fiscal year in which those deficits occurred. The executive caps spending at some figure, using the rest of the expected funding to, at least in part, account for the deficit.
Gov. Ed Rendell, on a few occasions during his 8 years in office – particularly after the Great Recession - froze hundreds of millions in spending or put various budget lines “in reserve.” Gov. Tom Corbett put hundreds of millions of dollars of appropriations in reserve not long after he took office to address a $4 billion deficit he inherited from Rendell.
This past fiscal year, when it became clear the state’s revenues would come up about $1 billion short of expectations – roughly midway through the year – Wolf avoided addressing the coming deficit in any significant way. In fact lawmakers had to do a $400 million supplemental appropriation for FY2016-17 to account for greater-than-expected human services spending. Then, later in the year, the governor announced he would allow a $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion deficit to roll over into the next fiscal year.
Many people have told me that if Pennsylvania were a business, the sheriff would soon be knocking at our door. The governor has continued to spend as if we don’t have a problem – and this type of behavior will continue to dig us deeper into a financial abyss.
Bills passed by the Senate
Along with the consideration of several budget-related bills, the Senate passed the following legislation this week:
Senate Bill 667 which grants redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act.
Latest Argall Report focuses on Senator for a Day program
My latest Argall Report highlights my annual Senator for a Day program at Penn State Schuylkill, where more than 100 students (a record!) representing over 13 local area high schools participated.
During this seminar, students were able to debate several legislative proposals including school property tax elimination, liquor store privatization and welfare reform measures.
A special thank you to the teachers, advisors and school officials for participating in this program! And thank you to Penn State Schuylkill for being a great host!
Please note, a similar event is planned for Berks high schools in the fall.
You can watch the report here.
Real welfare reform: Food stamps and work requirements
PennLive recently published an article discussing the 30,000 residents in Pennsylvania who no longer qualify for food stamp benefits due to the work requirements that were enacted in 1996 by President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress.
The work rules under the welfare reform law requires that able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children or dependents living in their home have to work, volunteer or attend job-training or education courses for at least 80 hours per month in order to receive food stamp benefits.
Last March, there were 120,477 able-bodied individuals without dependents receiving food stamps. In March 2017, this number dropped to 90,336 recipients.
Under Pennsylvania’s work rules, in order to receive benefits, individuals must work an average of at least 80 hours per month and participate and comply with a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program, a Trade Adjustment Assistance Act program or an employment training program for 80 or more hours per month.
Read more about this issue here.
Women’s Outdoor Day
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, women ages 16 and older are invited to participate in the 17th annual Women’s Outdoor Day at the Friedensburg Fish & Game Association club grounds.
The Women’s Outdoor Day provides women with the opportunity to engage in several outdoor activities such as fishing, archery, shotgun shooting and canoeing.
The event is free-of-charge and will run from 8 a.m. until 2:45 p.m.
Women interested in participating in this event are required to register by August 8, 2017. For more information or to register, please contact Dennis Scharadin at 570-739-2085 or email@example.com.