Senate Appropriations Committee has wrapped up
three weeks of public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed 2017-2018 state
budget. Summaries and video of this week’s hearings are listed below.
This Week’s Budget Hearings:
- Department of Community and Economic Development
- Department of Revenue/PA Lottery
- Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission
- Department of Education
- Department of Health and Human Services (Proposed)
- Department of Environmental Protection
- Office of the Budget
Monday, March 6, 2017
Department of Community and Economic Development
Senator Scavello discussed the economic development
opportunity presented by the closing of SCI Pittsburgh, the proposed
Apprenticeship Grant Program, and a proposed $6.1 million PA tourism initiative.
He also noted the proposed Smart Cities transportation planning initiative and
urged that it be applied to more than cities. The senator also sought details of
the proposed Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant Program.
The committee questioned Secretary Dennis Davin about the
proposed 9.1 percent decrease in DCED funding, as well as:
- The economic development opportunity presented by the SCI
- The proposed Apprenticeship Grant Program.
- The proposed $6.1 million PA tourism initiative.
- The proposed Smart Cities transportation planning
initiative and the need to apply it to more than cities.
- The Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant Program.
- Borrowing money to fund proposed new grant programs.
- Update on Act 47 efforts for distressed municipalities.
- Beneficiaries of Small Business Development funding.
- The Governor’s opposition to expanding Keystone Opportunity
Zones and City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.
- The proposed $2 million cut in Partnerships for Regional
Economic Performance (PREP).
- The economic impact of the southwestern PA cracker plant
and southeastern PA natural gas processing.
- The impact of the Life Sciences Greenhouse initiative.
- Conflicting job creation numbers from DCED and the Labor
and Industry Department, and a breakout of jobs created versus jobs retained.
The lack of legislative input into individual tax credits
being grouped into the proposed Tax Credit Block Grant.
Department of Revenue/PA Lottery
Senator Scavello asked Secretary McNulty about the
potential impact of online gaming on Lottery revenue, and increased assessments
on casinos to cover oversight costs.
Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty fielded questions
regarding the Wolf Administration’s proposed cuts to various tax credit programs
and the $1 billion in new taxes requested by Governor Wolf. Other topics of
- The projected impact of gambling expansion
proposals on Lottery sales.
- Increases in Lottery sales from instant
- Potential environmental impacts that would
result from a reduction in tax credits.
- Concerns regarding potential cuts in the
number of communities eligible for the KOZ program.
- The effect on ratepayers if the
Administration’s insurance premiums tax is enacted.
- Legal issues pertaining to tax collection for
- How the Administration’s proposed commercial
storage tax would impact businesses.
- Revenue lost by the state due to tax
increases enacted at the local level.
- How the pending state Supreme Court case
regarding net operating losses could affect small businesses.
- Cyber security and the Department’s efforts
to protect personal information.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission
Senators asked James Vaughn, Executive Director of the
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, about the agency’s budget and
- Digitization of the state archives and records.
- Balancing historic site preservation with economic
- The proposed allocation of $2 million from the Pennsylvania
Economic Revitalization Fund for cultural and historic support.
- The planned new archives and record center in Harrisburg.
- Site maintenance.
- Use of revenues generated from fees.
- Trends in attendance at historical sites and museums.
- The 36-percent cut in state funding over the past 10 years.
Marketing and the use of social media.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Department of Education
Senator Scavello discussed the need for all-day career and
technical education programs, expressed concern that the Administration’s $50
million cut in school transportation funding will hurt rural districts, and
noted the role of community colleges in reducing college education costs.
Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera fielded questions on
the department’s policy priorities and budget request, which calls for an
increase of $100 million in basic education funding, and for a total of $13.6
billion for both basic education and higher education, which represents 42
percent of the entire Commonwealth budget.
Topics discussed included:
- The distribution of funding across 500 school districts and
SSHE colleges, and the disparity in teacher salaries, pensions, per-pupil
spending, building quality, and more.
- The need for pension reform and its impact on school
- Developing college and career readiness plans,
incentivizing career and technical schools, matching curricula to work force
trends, and the movement toward four-year degrees.
- The proposed $50 million cut to bus transportation
programs, the impact on rural districts, and the effect of the rising fuel
- Ways to improve the teacher evaluation system (Act 82).
- Proposed changes to the School Performance Profile, to
account for growth.
- The work toward property tax elimination.
- The feasibility of merging school district health care and
- Cyber-charter schools’ quality and delays in charter
- The status of the Plan Con review and school construction
projects now in progress.
- The future of the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC).
- Difficulties with data collection, and the lack of current
- The proposed 50 percent cut to private college institution
grants and its impact on lower-income students.
- Student loan debt and the role of community colleges in
saving student tuition costs.
- Negotiating for sick and bereavement leave in collective
The number of employees eligible for the proposed early
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Department of Health and Human Services
(Proposed consolidation of Aging, Drugs & Alcohol and
Senator Scavello questioned officials about the
Commonwealth’s proposed shift from facility-based employment for persons with
intellectual disabilities, the DHS waiting list for students with disabilities,
the impact of consolidation on Community Health Choices, and the importance of
Testifying were Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas,
Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne, Acting Secretary for Drugs and Alcohol Jennifer
Smith, Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy, and Physician General Dr. Rachel
Levine. The Governor is requesting $39.2 billion for the four merged
departments. The following topics were addressed by the committee:
The following topics were addressed by the committee:
- The process and aftermath of the proposed consolidation of
four departments, including the ambitious timeline, the ultimate leader, the net
employee complement, the savings on personnel and the impact of early
retirement, and the possible diminished focus on aging
- Efforts to curb waste, fraud and abuse in the Departments
of Health and Human Services and the role of the Office of Inspector General
- Contacts to consumers who passed away and the failed
technology that spawned errors
- Increasing purchasing power on pharmaceutical purchases,
including in PACE and PACENET, to save money in the Lottery Fund, and the drop
in the dispensing fee
- The future sustainability of the Lottery Fund
- The proposed closure of state Health Center facilities,
Norristown State Hospital and Hamburg State Center in a move from
institutionalization to community-based care, with concerns for not just the
residents but the vacant building
- Consumer access to county assistance offices after opening
regional processing centers
- Timeline and added cost of Health Choices roll-out delays
due to bid protests
- The status of the Aging waiver, the MAXIMUS contract and
full competitive bidding
- The consequences of Affordable Care Act “repeal and
replace” changes on the horizon at the federal level and the eligibility for
- The Public Health Fund and our readiness to respond to a
health crisis such as Zika Virus, Ebola or Lyme Disease
- Heroin addiction initiatives, especially for special
populations, including veterans, pregnant women, women with children and the
- The need for an ombudsman program
- Increasing nursing home beds and the rise in complaints
about quality of care
- The effectiveness of treatment for heroin addicts and the
“warm hand-off” of Narcan-resuscitated patients, along with recovery support
services to prevent relapse
- Statewide treatment protocols for heroin treatment, and
- The new Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and its role
in addiction prevention
- Staff turnover, salary freezes, and employee burnout in
direct care workers
- The notification of changes in Medicaid waivers and the
impact on local sheltered workshops for the visually impaired and others; the
“pigeon-holing” of workers
- Chronic renal disease program as a last resort for billing
- The DHS decision not to fund the waiting list
- The link between autism and vaccines, and the growing
- The status of Medical Marijuana regulations on growers and
- Regional cancer centers, which were zeroed-out for funding
- The “I Want to Work” campaign and gainful employment
opportunities for those with disabilities
- Zeroed-out funding for bio tech research and tobacco
- Plans to rein in costs of Medicaid
- The growing number of doctors who are refusing to take
- Whether patients who are receiving life-saving antidotes
for overdoses have responsibility to pay for the medication
- Concern that drug and alcohol programs would be diminished
and moved down the list of priorities in a larger agency.
- Attempts to modernize the antiquated system of obtaining
- Whether child protective services would be considered
“essential services” in the case of a budget impasse.
- An update on the STARS system which is used to rate
- Efforts to implement the state’s medical marijuana program
and ensure that it is safe and effective.
- Contingency plans that are in place in case anticipated
savings are not realized in PACE program.
- Sharing data with the Department of Military and Veterans
Affairs on the services that are available to help seniors age in place.
- How the Governor’s plan to raise the minimum wage would
impact service providers and direct care workers.
- Concerns by senior citizens about losing their voice if the
Department of Aging is folded into a larger agency.
- The importance of a continuum of care for senior citizens
in assisted living facilities.
- Meeting the long-term care needs of veterans.
- The important role that sheltered care workshops play in
the quality of life for people with special needs and the need to involve
families in choices.
Costs associated with implementing the medical cannabis
program and whether it will be self-sustaining.
Hearing Video I
Hearing Video II
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Department of Environmental Protection
Senator Scavello discussed the burden of municipalities
imposing MS4 fees on property owners for impervious surfaces, the danger of
using grants for operating expenses, and more topics.
Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell was questioned about
DEP’s proposed general operating budget, which totals $13.5 billion, a 3.4
percent decrease. Topics included:
- Ongoing delays in issuing DEP permits.
- The possible use of outside consultants to review permits.
- Permit processing for pipelines that stretch across
- Details on the $45 million DEP, Department of Agriculture,
and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources water quality plan.
- Proposed natural gas severance tax effect on community
impact fee funding.
- Estimate of remaining waste tire piles after 20 years of
the Waste Tire Recycling Act.
- The West Virginia NPDES permit model for mid-sized
- State borrowing to finance DEP operations.
- Regulatory obstacles delaying job-producing projects for
- Pennsylvania’s spending of $180 million in state and
federal funds on Chesapeake Bay regulations over three years.
- The use of Pennsylvania’s portion of Volkswagen settlement
money on diesel emissions issues.
- The Administration’s development of a plan to mandate that
energy production include 10 percent solar energy by 2030.
- The EPA report on unaddressed safe drinking water
violations in Pennsylvania.
- Homeowners sharing wells impacted by DEP regulations
designed to cover public water systems.
- Adequacy of the Black Fly spraying program.
- Regulation of high hazard dams.
- Municipalities imposing MS4 fees on property owners for
- The Covered Device Recycling Act and TV sets being dumped
- Reduced funding for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.
- DEP efforts to reduce recyclable glass going into
- Multiple DEP restricted accounts and special funds facing
- Coal refuse cleanup efforts.
- The growing challenge of local stormwater management.
- Continued problems with DEP not being business-friendly.
- New methane permitting thresholds.
- Payments to Delaware River Basin Commission.
- Pennsylvania’s progress in meeting Chesapeake Bay water
- Air quality study release date.
- Length of GP5 permit applications.
- How Pennsylvania environmental regulations became more
stringent than federal requirements.
Office of the Budget
Senator Scavello asked about the cost of
State System of Higher Education contract raises and the impact on the state
budget and student tuition. He also discussed funding of State Police coverage
in municipalities without a police department, the fate of laid off Unemployment
Compensation call center employees, and the risk of funding operations with
one-time grant money. He also discussed with Secretary Albright the effect of a
minimum wage increase on jobs.
Office of the Budget
The committee held an extensive discussion of the
Governor’s Budget Office/Executive Offices/Office of the Governor with Budget
Secretary Randy Albright and Secretary of Administration Sharon Minnich. Issues
discussed during the hearing included:
- Updated revenue estimates.
- The array of tax increases proposed by the Governor.
- Proposed elimination of certain sales tax exemptions.
- Feasibility of using long-term borrowing for short-term
- The Governor’s proposed tax credit cap.
- Records management and retention.
- Implementation of the Civil Service Modernization Act.
- The Governor’s proposed Lease-Leaseback of the
Pennsylvania Farm Show facility.
- The proposed elimination of funding for the University
of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
- Efforts to combat opioid abuse.
- Reduction in funding for scholarships for private
- Maintenance of service under the proposed Department of
Health & Human Services.
- Use of an outside contractor to develop cost saving and
- The need to address public pension costs.
- The Governor’s moratorium on expanding KOZ and CRIZ.
- The expected number of workers who would take the
proposed early retirement incentive and the projected cost savings.
- The proposed $25 per capita fee for State Police
- Upcoming labor contract negotiations.
- Layoffs and other issues related to the Unemployment
Compensation Service Centers.
- Gaming expansion.
- The proposed merger of Aging, Drug & Alcohol Programs,
Health, and Human Services departments.
- The proposed Marcellus Shale severance tax.
- Statewide health care contract for school districts.
- Costs of and quality of life in state veterans’ homes.
- The continuing and costly statewide radio system
- Sales of state properties.
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Monroe County Office
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123
2989 Route 611, Suite 103
Tannersville, PA 18372
Phone (570) 620-4326
FAX (570) 620-4379
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Pen Argyl, PA 18072
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