Encouraging Drilling in the DRBC
Last Tuesday, the House passed my resolution, House Resolution 515, which urges the Delaware River Basin Commission to suspend consideration of a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. The resolution passed with a bipartisan vote of 101-83. To hear my comments on the resolution, check out the video below.
Final Pieces of Budget Package Headed to Governor
This week, the House and Senate sent to the governor’s desk the remaining pieces of the 2017-18 budget package. That includes legislation to protect taxpayers from a broad-based income, sales or utility tax increase this fiscal year, while also generating enough revenue to close out the 2016-17 fiscal year and fully fund the 2017-18 budget year. The package also includes funding for state-related higher education institutions, which include Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, Temple and the state’s only veterinary school, Penn Vet.
Part of the funding package is based on securitizing the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund and reforms to the state’s gaming industry, which would include enhancing the state’s Lottery Fund and legalizing many unregulated games in an effort to capture lost revenue. The funding plan also includes transferring $300 million in unspent dollars from special funds.
Lawmakers reaffirmed our commitment to quality education by increasing Basic Education Funding for our schools, as well as for early childhood education and special education programs. The Public School Code measure also would protect excellent teachers by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs and requiring teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions.
Ultimately, my Republican colleagues and I fought successfully to pass a spending plan that was much less than what the governor proposed while still investing in the core functions of government without further burdening taxpayers.
Heating Assistance Program Opens Soon
Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Wednesday, Nov. 1.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.
The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are set at 150 percent of the federal poverty income level. For example, the income limit for an individual is $18,090; for a couple, the limit is $24,360; and for a family of four, it is $36,900.
Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance Office in their county of residence.
Property Tax Referendum on Nov. 7 Ballot
On the Nov. 7 general election ballot, voters will have an opportunity to vote on a property tax reform measure.
Currently, the state Constitution permits local governments – counties, municipalities and school districts – to exclude up to 50 percent of the median assessed home value from a homeowner’s tax bill. However, the referendum on the ballot will allow voters to decide if the maximum homestead exclusion could be increased to 100 percent of primary residences. For example, under the current homestead exclusion, if the median assessed home value in your school district is $100,000, up to $50,000 can be excluded from your tax bill if your school district elected the full 50 percent exclusion rate. If the value of your home is assessed at $150,000, your local property tax rate would only be applied to $100,000 of that value.
If the resolution amending the Constitution is approved, the homestead exclusion cap could be removed. However, the General Assembly would still have to pass a law to implement the change, and local governments would still be responsible for establishing exclusion amounts for homesteads within each district.
Improving Educational Options
The House approved two proposals this week to improve educational options for students.
House Bill 429 would allow public school students who earn credit for a course in personal financial literacy to use that credit to satisfy a graduation credit requirement in social studies, math or consumer science. This would help encourage students to acquire the knowledge necessary to make wise financial choices as adults.
The second measure, House Bill 1653, would allow students pursuing postsecondary education online to receive financial aid. Currently, this is operated as a pilot program, which was created by Act 59 of 2013, for students who take more than 50 percent of their credits online from a college or university headquartered and located in the Commonwealth.
Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
Clifford Baptist Church Celebrates 200th Anniversary
It was my honor to present a House citation to the Clifford Baptist Church recognizing its 200th anniversary. We rang the church bell 200 times to celebrate this special occasion.
Dispose of Expired Prescription Drugs