(HARRISBURG) – Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release overdue state funding, Senate Republicans today led an effort to override Governor Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General Assembly.

Senate leaders emphasized that the override would have provided badly needed funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no Democrat support.

“Governor Wolf’s veto of our Emergency Funding Budget last month showed his refusal to put the needs of our schools and social service organizations first,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25). “Our schools and human service organizations are in critical need of funding to keep their doors open and should not be held hostage during this budget impasse. As legislators, we have a duty to help our communities and today’s veto override vote of the Emergency Funding legislation took a necessary step to provide vital support while a final budget is negotiated. As we continue to move forward, we remain committed to ensuring that the final 2015-16 budget respects taxpayers and hardworking families across Pennsylvania.”

Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the Senate Democrat Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania. School districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may double by Thanksgiving.

“This hardship is completely unnecessary – the money is there and the state hasn’t stopped collecting taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34). “Governor Wolf is holding schools, food banks, rape crisis centers and other social service agencies hostage to his plan for huge tax increases that simply have no support. We are all frustrated. The reality is that budget issues are going to take additional time to resolve. This is about getting money to the schools and those in our communities who need it. ”

“Pennsylvania cannot afford the Governor’s massive tax hikes and record high spending levels,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-16) said. “However, school districts, non-profits and agencies should not be punished while a final budget agreement continues to be negotiated. We have a responsibility to fund these vital services and this vote today on an emergency budget would have ensured that we meet those obligations to provide for the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Today’s vote marks the fifth time since June 30th that the legislature has attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted and keep money flowing to schools and organizations.

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CONTACTS:
Drew Crompton – Senator Scarnati (717) 787-7084
Jenn Kocher – Senator Corman (717) 787-1377
Matt Moyer – Senator Browne (717) 787-1349

pagov

From Representative Kathy Rapp:

This week, I voted to advance Senate Bill 1, which would significantly reform and modernize Pennsylvania’s public employee pension systems that currently face a shortfall of more than $50 billion, to the Senate for concurrence.

Under Senate Bill 1, all new employees who enter either the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) or Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) would be enrolled in a combination of 401(K)-type and cash balance pension plan.

The shortfall was worsened by the “Great Recession” and has become a major concern to the Commonwealth’s school districts, which face skyrocketing costs associated with pensions. Reforming the system will help alleviate future property tax increases.

This plan preserves the Commonwealth’s pension system and does not alter benefits for retirees. This is a responsible solution which will save the state an estimated $11 billion over the course of the next 30 years.
Senate Bill 1 now awaits consideration by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Visit RepRapp.com or Facebook.com/RepRapp for the latest legislative updates.

PropertyTaxRebate

(HARRISBURG) – Older Pennsylvanians and individuals with disabilities who have applied for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program will begin receiving rebates totaling $214 million this week, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

The state Department of Revenue announced this week that nearly 456,000 homeowners and renters will be issued rebates beginning on July 1. Approximately 163,000 homeowners and renters should have rebates directly deposited into bank accounts. Others should begin receiving rebate checks by mail in the next several days.

The deadline to apply for rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2014 was recently extended from June 30 to December 31 to allow more eligible individuals to apply for the program.

“I’m very pleased that the Property Tax Rent Rebate program is helping many of our local seniors and others living on a fixed income,” Scarnati said. “My offices and several local area agencies are available to assist anyone who has questions or needs assistance with submitting applications. It is important for seniors to know they do not have to pay for this service.”

To be eligible, applicants must meet income requirements and be a Pennsylvania resident age 65 and older; a widow or widower age 50 and older; or a permanently disabled individual age 18 or older. The program is available to homeowners with a household income of $35,000 or less and renters with a household income of $15,000 or less, excluding one-half of Social Security Income and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits.

Applicants who received rebates last year are not disqualified from receiving a rebate this year if Social Security cost-of-living adjustments caused them to exceed these income limits.

Information and applications for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program are available online at www.revenue.state.pa.us or by calling toll-free 1-888-222-9190. Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms and more information are also available at Senator Scarnati’s District Offices in Brockway, Kane and Wellsboro.

Contact information for Senator Scarnati’s district offices is listed below:

Brockway – 410 Main Street, Brockway, PA 15824 – PH: (814) 265-2030

Kane – 21A Field Street, Kane, PA 16735 – PH: (814) 837-1026

Wellsboro – 5 Main Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 – PH: (570) 724-5231

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CONTACT:
Kate Eckhart
keckhart@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

US Senate

(HARRISBURG) – On Tuesday the State Senate sent to the Governor’s desk a 2015-16 state budget that boosts education funding and funds essential services without raising taxes, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).

“On June 30th we sent a balanced budget to the governor that required no tax increases,” Scarnati said. “I am deeply disappointed that Governor Wolf chose to veto this responsible budget plan that increases education funding, provides funding for critical state services and places the hardworking taxpayers of Pennsylvania first.”

Scarnati explained that House Bill 1192 is a balanced budget that includes no new taxes or new tax increases and invests $370 million more in education. It also includes fundamental changes to the state’s pension and liquor systems. The budget was presented to the Governor by the constitutionally mandated date of June 30th.

Highlights of the No Tax Increase Budget Vetoed by the Governor:

$30.1 billion in total state spending.
$100 million more in new state dollars for basic education that is combined with reforms to the basic education funding formula and improvements in accountability.
$20 million more for special education.
$30 million more for early education, including Pre-K Counts and Head Start.
$300 million in savings for the state and school districts to pay for capital improvements.
$50 million more across the board for higher education.
$2.8 million to address avian flu.
Expanding community-based services for seniors to help keep them in their homes and communities.
Structural reform to the pension system, which is the primary cost driver for the state and school districts.
$220 million in additional revenues through liquor reforms.

Scarnati noted that in March the Governor had introduced a massive tax and spend budget that included tax increases totaling $4.7 billion for the 2015-16 fiscal year – the largest increase in state history. However when the revenue needed for that spending plan was brought up for a vote in the House of Representatives, it did not receive a single positive vote. After trying to negotiate with the Governor for months, the General Assembly crafted House Bill 1192.

“The hard working men and women of our state deserve to have a government that provides the core public services they expect,” Scarnati said. “I will continue to engage in talks with the Governor and work diligently to see that taxpayers are not burdened by the massive tax increases Governor Wolf continues to push for.”

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CONTACT:
Kate Eckhart
keckhart@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

dr

(HARRISBURG) – Legislation to increase penalties for impersonating a physician in Pennsylvania was unanimously passed by the General Assembly and has been signed by the Governor, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati, prime sponsor of the bill, explained that Act 10 of 2015 increases the criminal grading for a person who impersonates a doctor of medicine and provides medical treatment, from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor.

“Impersonating a physician can have dire consequences for individuals who unknowingly place their healthcare in the hands of someone who is not properly trained,” Scarnati said. “I am very pleased that this bi-partisan legislation will help to protect those seeking medical advice and treatment.”

Scarnati noted that prior to this legislation being signed into law, impersonating a physician was treated the same as impersonating a notary public or other licensed professional under Pennsylvania law.

This legislation is based largely on a recommendation made by the Philadelphia Grand Jury which investigated and ultimately indicted Dr. Kermit Gosnell and other employees at his “House of Horrors” abortion clinic. Although Gosnell was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for murder, several of his employees, who were practicing medicine without a proper license, received lenient sentences for their crimes.

“I commend my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives for advancing this protection measure,” Scarnati stated. “In 2011, a Philadelphia Grand Jury brought to light instances of physician impersonation while investigating the Abortion Clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. My hope is that with making these changes, we will decrease the likelihood that these crimes will recur.”

Act 10 was signed into law on June 26th, 2015 and shall take effect in 60 days.

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CONTACT:
Casey Long
clong@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

PropertyTaxBill1

Across Pennsylvania, the practice has long been in place of taxing property to help fund our schools. While the school property tax may have made sense when it was first enacted in the 1830’s, constituents today have been voicing loud and clear that the school property tax is one of the most burdensome and distressing taxes.

Shifting to a fairer way to fund our public schools and reforming property taxes is a topic that has gained significant attention in Harrisburg. However, in some cases with land or property in rural Pennsylvania there are no tax payments to “reform” because a large portion of the property is owned by the government.

In much of the 25th District which I represent, government is the biggest landowner within many school districts. The federal government owns 500,000 acres of Allegheny National Forest in Warren, Forest, Elk and McKean counties. The state government owns even more acres in its state parks, state forests and state-affiliated Game Lands that stretch across Potter, Tioga, Clinton and Cameron Counties.

School districts are not permitted to tax the land owned by state and federal governments. Instead, Pennsylvania pays Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money to Galeton Area School District (Potter and Tioga Counties), West Branch Area School District (Clinton County) and Cameron County School District. However, the problem is that those state payments are almost never increased.

Local school districts have been forced to increase property taxes year after year, to cover the soaring costs of education. A high school built today can easily cost $30 million, whereas that same school built 30 years ago might have cost $3 million. Yet the state’s PILT revenue hasn’t kept pace.

In 2006 I fought hard to increase the PILT from $1.20 per acre to the current $3.60 per acre. However, it is clear that this amount should be increased once again.

Our state faces a $1.2 billion structural deficit for this fiscal year, which we need to find a way to fix. Governor Wolf has made it clear that he wants $4.5 billion in new taxes this year. But before we consider new taxes, we need to fix existing revenues – including the PILT which negatively impacts hard-working rural Pennsylvanians because government owns much of our land.

In rural Pennsylvania we deserve to be treated fairly – just as those in suburban and urban areas of our state are treated. Increasing the PILT is a vital part of making sure that rural Pennsylvanians are not burdened more than those who reside in more populated areas of our Commonwealth.

Senator Joe Scarnati is currently serving his 4th term in the Pennsylvania Senate. As President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Joe holds the third-highest constitutional office in the State. He was born and raised in Brockway, Pennsylvania and represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga and portions of Clearfield County.

20091118_GovernmentTransparency

(HARRISBURG) – The State Senate has unanimously passed bi-partisan legislation to improve access to lobbying disclosure data, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).

Scarnati, the sponsor of Senate Bill 695, explained that the bill requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports electronically through the computerized system developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State. In addition, the Department will be required to post on its Lobbyist Disclosure website all lobbying registration and reporting documents it receives within a week of the filing.

“In the past, it has often taken months after lobbyist disclosure documents were completed and filed before the information was posted on the Department’s website,” Scarnati said. “Timely internet publication of all lobbying documents is an important part of improving transparency in state government and providing taxpayers with increased access to information.”

Scarnati explained that currently, lobbyists may register and file reports with the Department on paper forms through traditional mail. In some cases this has led to delayed posting of the information on the Department’s publicly accessible website.

“Last session identical legislation was passed by the Senate, but was never considered by the House of Representatives,” Scarnati stated. “Senate Bill 695 will now be sent to the House, where I am hopeful it will receive swift consideration this session.”

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CONTACT:
Drew Crompton
dcrompton@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

vaping-1

From State Representative Kathy Rapp:

My legislation to make Pennsylvania the next state to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes and other related “vaping” products to minors unanimously passed the state House this week.

According to the latest data, more than 16 million children, ages 17 and under, are living in 10 states where they can purchase e-cigarettes almost as easily as a pack of gum or a candy bar. It is imperative that the Legislature act now to add Pennsylvania to the list of 40 other states that have already taken the necessary steps to keep e-cigarettes, e-cigars and all other similar adult-only products out of our children’s hands by adopting House Bill 954.”

House Bill 954 would add nicotine delivery products to the list of tobacco products that are illegal to sell to minors, including electronic cigarettes. It would still be legal to sell e-cigarettes and vape pens in Pennsylvania – just not to children. The penalties would be the same as under current law for selling cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products to minors.

E-cigarettes, sometimes known as “vape pens,” are used to deliver nicotine and other substances into the body in the form of a vapor. The products come in a variety of flavors and generally resemble the size and shape of traditional cigarettes, which may increase their appeal to minors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials have confirmed that calls to poison centers involving e-cigarettes have surged in recent years.

In 2014, the CDC reported a dramatic increase in the number of high school students who indicated they had tried e-cigarettes, including many who previously had never smoked.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. Visit RepRapp.com or Facebook.com/RepRapp for the latest legislative updates.

scarnati

(HARRISBURG) – The deadline to apply for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended to December 31, 2015 to allow eligible individuals more time to take advantage of the program, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).

The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those with disabilities 18 years or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, excluding half of Social Security income. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.

“The application period to submit applications is once again being extended until the end of the year,” Scarnati said. “This is a great program that can help make housing more affordable for those on a limited income. With the cost of housing increasing, it’s important for those who qualify to submit their applications.”

Scarnati noted that the program was started in 1971 and is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms and more information are also available at Senator Scarnati’s District Offices. In addition, forms and assistance are available at Department of Revenue District Offices (listed in the government section of phone directories), local Area Agencies on Aging, and Senior Centers. It is important for individuals to know that they do not have to pay for this service.

Claimants who already applied for Property Tax/Rent Rebates may check the status of claims online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES.

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CONTACT:
Kate Eckhart
keckhart@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

capitol

(HARRISBURG) – For a two week period new applications for funding from the State Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) will be accepted by the Office of the Budget, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati explained that RACP is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.

New RACP business plans from potential candidates will be accepted for the upcoming round of funding beginning May 4, 2015 and must be submitted by May 18, 2015. During this window, those that had previously submitted business plans during calendar year 2015 may also amend those submissions to correct any technical errors or omissions.

“In the past, grants through the RACP program have provided significant investments within our local communities and helped to bring more jobs and services to the region,” Senator Scarnati said. “I strongly encourage those with eligible projects to take advantage of this submission period and send in business plans for new local improvement projects.”

All submissions received by the Commonwealth by May 18, 2015 will receive equal consideration for the RACP funding available in this round.

Before completing a business plan, project eligibility must be verified. A template and guide to verify projects can be found on the RACP Website. In order to receive consideration, the original and 2 CD copies of all business plan materials must then be submitted to:

Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program

C/O Business Plan
Office of the Budget
333 Market Street, 18th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2210

For questions or assistance with submitting an RACP plan, please contact Senator Scarnati’s Harrisburg Office at 717-787-7084.

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CONTACT:
Kate Eckhart
keckhart@pasen.gov
717-787-7084

DeptPublicWelfare

(HARRISBURG) – The deadline to apply for home heating assistance under the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended to May 1, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25), who urged eligible residents to apply.

LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant, sent directly to the utility company, or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat.

Scarnati said LIHEAP applications were supposed to be submitted by April 3, but the severity and duration of this winter’s weather resulted in the deadline being moved.

“This winter had been especially harsh, resulting in higher heating bills for many senior citizens and those on a fixed income,” Scarnati said.  “This extension will help those in need to take advantage of an important program.”

The cash grants are determined from several factors, including household income and family size.

Scarnati said residents can apply for LIHEAP, online at COMPASS.  They can also contact their local county assistance office or call the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095, Monday through Friday (individuals with hearing impairments may call the TDD number at 1-800-451-5886).

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CONTACT:
Kate Eckhart
keckhart@pasen.gov
717-787-7084

Scarnati-Leadership-WEB

(HARRISBURG) – Today Tom Wolf proposed devastating tax increases of $4.7 billion as part of his 2015-2016 state budget proposal, according the Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati explained at a press conference following the Governor’s budget address, that Senate Republicans, who hold a 30-19 majority in the Senate, will not support Tom Wolf’s enormous tax increases on Pennsylvania families and employers.

“I certainly respect that the Governor has a concept for the 2015-16 state budget, however the Senate Republican Caucus does not believe that massive tax increases will help make Pennsylvania a stronger state,” Scarnati said. “Today’s budget clarifies that Governor Wolf is fixated on taxing and spending his way out of the state’s problems. As budget discussions progress, I will continue to be a voice for reason and helping to provide relief from the disastrous effects Tom Wolf’s budget would have on hardworking residents across our Commonwealth.”

In his budget, the Governor has proposed tax increases of 16.1 percent more than Fiscal Year 2014-15. His proposal would raise taxes by $12 billion over the next two fiscal years – about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Pennsylvania.

“We expect Pennsylvania families to live within their means and our government must learn to do the same,” Scarnati said. “My constituents have sent me to Harrisburg to protect working families. We cannot expect them to give us even more of their hard earned paychecks.”

Scarnati stressed that under the Wolf plan, families will pay more in personal income taxes, sales and use taxes, as well as on new taxable items. While the portion of his proposal to reduce property taxes is certainly a good concept, it is immensely concerning that in his proposal, there is nothing that will keep property taxes from going back up.

“While Gov. Wolf wants to borrow over $6 billion against the state, and spend billions and billions of dollars, my colleagues and I will remain focused on tangible initiatives to help Pennsylvanians, such as passing pension reform and improving the state’s business environment,” Scarnati explained.

Strengthening Pennsylvania’s economy needs a clear and predictable course that focuses on fiscal restraint and core priorities.

“Over the past four years Pennsylvania’s economy has been on the right track, as Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is at the lowest rate in more than six years and with the right fiscal policies, it can go lower,” Scarnati stated. “We will not allow the irresponsible budget proposed by Tom Wolf to destroy the hard work we have done over the past several years to develop a strong business climate and increase access to good family sustaining jobs across Pennsylvania.”

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CONTACT: Drew Crompton dcrompton@pasen.gov 717-787-7084