In this Update:
Senate Reviews Proposed State Budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee this past week began the first of three weeks of public hearings about the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget, including hundreds of millions of dollars that replace federal funding that was cut by the Biden administration at the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I was able to pose questions to several of those who testified during this week’s budget hearings.
On Tuesday, during the hearing for the Office of the Treasurer, I asked Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity for a rundown of her office’s top priorities and her take on our state’s fiscal challenges – you can watch the clip of the Q&A by clicking on the graphic at the top of this item. Treasurer Garrity painted a sobering picture of the governor’s budget proposal for next year, which would spend all the excess, one-time federal funding we’ll have at the end of our current budget cycle. She noted the governor in future years also plans to spend on his proposals all of the $5 billion we currently have in the state’s Rainy Day fund, which is there in case of economic emergencies. All this proposed spending by the governor comes as most economists and the business community expect an economic downturn for our nation, which will negatively affect the money Pennsylvania state government has to spend, Treasurer Garrity said during the hearing.
We all know what happens when our state government’s spending substantially exceeds its available revenue: tax increases, because our state government must have a balanced budget. Those tax hikes would come at a time when people are already struggling with everything being more expensive due to soaring inflation and high energy costs caused by ill-conceived policies imposed by former Gov. Wolf, President Biden and Democrats in the U.S. Congress. Prudently saving the one-time funding and building our Rainy Day fund will help to prevent such tax increases should the economy hit a rough patch during the coming months.
I also raised the topic of best cash flow management practices in state government with Treasurer Garrity – you can watch that here.
Earlier in the week, I had the chance to ask questions of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Independent Fiscal Office – you can see those video clips by clicking on the links. The committee also heard from the Office of Auditor General – I asked Auditor General Timothy DeFoor about the laws that govern what he does and the type of audits his department completes as well as the Board of Claims.
Find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.
Area Students Visit the PA Capitol
Last week, I joined a group of students from the Butler Intermediate High School who were at the Pennsylvania State Capitol for a tour.
Our Capitol, which opened in 1906, truly is a treasure for all to see. If you have not had the chance to see it, please stop by and schedule a tour! It is your building!
Also last week, members of the PennWest University Clarion Choir graced the rotunda in our Capitol with their wonderful music to celebrate March as Music in Our Schools month!
Check the Status of Your Tax Refund
As families struggle with rising costs and inflation, many are anticipating their tax refund. Anyone who would like to check the status of a Pennsylvania Income Tax refund can do so by calling 1-888-PATAXES or clicking here. There is also an opportunity to verify your tax refund to expedite processing.
Improving Access to Unemployment Compensation System
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry extended indefinitely a program that enhances Pennsylvanians’ access to the Unemployment Compensation (UC) system by offering in-person appointments to claimants.
The program, now called UC Connect, offers in-person services for UC claimants who do not have proper technology, equipment or technical skills; individuals without access to home Internet or broadband; and individuals with limited-English proficiency.
To schedule an appointment, claimants should contact a PA CareerLink® center directly.
Share Your Feedback on PennDOT’s Winter Services
PennDOT is accepting winter services feedback through an online survey. The public can take the survey here through April 6.
The 17-question survey asks how often respondents travel during poor weather, how they rate PennDOT’s winter service and how they rank snow-removal priorities. Respondents are also asked how they receive PennDOT roadway information and whether they use the state’s 511PA traveler information services.
During the winter, https://511pa.com offers its standard traffic and incident information while adding PennDOT plow-truck locations, winter roadway conditions and other services.
Veterans: Protect Your Pension
Veterans and their beneficiaries who are potentially eligible for VA pension benefits must beware of pension poaching. While pension poaching can impact any veteran, poachers primarily target older veterans. Pension poaching comes in several forms, from selling financial products of questionable value to charging a fee to restructure assets to make the veteran or beneficiary meet income eligibility criteria. Read about other pension poaching methods here.
Avoid becoming a victim of pension poaching by never paying:
If you suspect or experience a scam or financial exploitation related to any veteran benefit, including a VA pension, file a report immediately with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Military and Veterans Affairs section by calling 717-783-1944, emailing PAvets@attorneygeneral.gov or filling out this online form.
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