Jul. 25, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
New Law to Save Taxpayers Money

Working to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, the General Assembly passed a new law that will enable the Commonwealth to pay off state debt more quickly and save on interest costs.

Act 43 of 2019 will change the way state bonds are issued to accelerate the retirement of Pennsylvania’s General Obligation debt, reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of state-issued bonds, and help the Commonwealth improve its bond rating.

The law requires the principal for new issuances of state debt to be repaid in equal amounts over the term of the bond – usually 20 years – rather than front loading interest payments with lower principal payments that grow as the bonds mature.
Wolf Aims to Fund Voting Machine Replacement without Legislative Authorization

After vetoing a key election reform bill that would have also provided $90 million in funding to help counties replace their voting machines, the governor announced that he would simply go around the Legislature and supply the funding unilaterally.

Pennsylvania is a democracy, not a dictatorship. The governor’s attempt to order a bond issue to cover the cost of replacing voting machines without specific legislative authorization is a slap in the face to every taxpayer and to the constitutional separation of powers. He chose politics over policy when he decided to veto the bill; he doesn’t get to just decide to implement the part of the law he wants.

These are the actions of a governor who lacks the leadership necessary to build consensus and work together with a coequal branch of government to achieve shared policy goals. It’s not the way democracy works.

The need for the funding was brought about by the governor’s decision to decertify every type of voting machine currently in use in the Commonwealth. It is estimated to cost $150 million to replace machines in all 67 counties, a significant burden on taxpayers across the state.

By vetoing the legislation, the governor is also robbing voters of other needed election improvements, including extending the deadline for submission of absentee ballots to ensure all votes count and creating a commission to manage the process for election machine decertification in the future.

Finally, the bill would have brought Pennsylvania in line with more than 40 other states by eliminating the “straight party” voting option, the measure most strongly opposed by the governor. The change could have opened the door to more minor party candidates and encouraged voters to cast their ballots for a person rather than a party.
Busy Serving the 51st District

On Tuesday, I was in Somerset County visiting some of the municipalities in the 51st District. One of the townships I visited was Summit Township, where they recently experienced substantial damage due to heavy rainfalls and flash flooding. Summit Township supervisors and their crews have been doing great work to get these roadways reopened.

It was a pleasure to spend time with constituents during the Senior Expo I co-hosted with Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar. It was also great to spend some time with Sen. Pat Stefano and the other vendors.

Removing Barriers to Employment

Building on our long-term efforts to promote economic opportunity and remove barriers to work, the General Assembly has passed a new law improving the portability of professional licenses.

Act 41 of 2019 requires the licensing boards and commissions under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) to provide licensure by endorsement for applicants who hold similar licenses in other states. It also offers a provisional endorsement license to quickly move these professionals into the work force.

Under prior law, professionals moving into the state – including members of the military and their families – faced a number of barriers and delays in obtaining the appropriate licenses to reenter the work force, creating a financial burden for them and their families. In some cases, the delays could lead to missed job opportunities or even a decision to avoid moving to the Commonwealth.

The law is a win-win for both employees and employers.
2019-20 Budget Built on Record of Fiscal Responsibility

Over the past several years, House Republicans have made a commitment to work within current revenue and not increase broad-based taxes. This year’s budget is no exception. Our fiscal restraint has put Pennsylvania on the path to better protect taxpayers now and in the future, and that’s what I came to Harrisburg to accomplish.

Despite Gov. Tom Wolf’s claim that our state economy would be in shambles if we didn’t raise taxes, we are actually able to set aside $317 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the second fiscal year in a row we have been able to invest in this fund. I am also pleased this budget includes no state police assessment fees on our struggling rural municipalities.

The balanced bipartisan budget keeps spending at $33.997 billion, a 1.8% increase over the prior fiscal year, about the rate of inflation. PreK through 12th-grade education funding is increased by $432 million, to the highest levels in state history. Special education funding is increased by $50 million, while career and technical education will receive an increase of $10 million. Again this year, we dedicated $60 million to the School Safety Grant program. The agriculture industry was a winner in this year's budget, with a 12.8% increase in funding and a host of new programs to aid farmers. All of these investments were made without any new taxes or fees.

For additional details about the state budget, click here.

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