In this Update:
Because the Speaker of the House closed that chamber for repairs and the Governor declined the Senate’s invitation to hold it in our chamber, the Governor’s annual budget address was held in the Capitol Rotunda this week.
Massive Spending Increase in Shapiro’s Budget Creates Concern
This week, Gov. Josh Shapiro shared his proposed 2024-25 state budget, which includes a dramatic $3.2 billion increase – a jump of 7.1%, or more than twice the rate of inflation – in state spending.
In addition to making it extremely difficult to balance future budgets, the governor’s spending plan would completely eliminate the state’s current and future budgetary reserves in the next few years. Unrealistic spending and revenue projections mean the governor’s budget plan would likely require deep spending cuts and/or painful broad-based tax increases on Pennsylvanians in the near future.
Shapiro’s budget approach runs in opposition to the cautious and responsible budgets focusing on core government services that Senate Republicans have fought to enact. In the next several months, Senate Republicans will thoroughly examine Shapiro’s budget proposal and search for greater efficiencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its series of budget hearings to study the budget proposal on Feb. 20.
Senate Hearing on Office of Administration Data Loss
This week, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on the recent Shapiro Office of Administration (OA) server data loss.
According to the OA, human error from an employee performing server maintenance on Jan. 3 resulted in data loss affecting several agencies. Additional information requested at the hearing will be reviewed once received by the committees. Video of the hearing can be found here.
Senate Passes Measure Supporting a More Secure Southern Border
As the unprecedented rise in illegal immigration strains the resources of states throughout the nation, the Senate approved a measure calling for action to address the border crisis and support the rights of states to protect their citizens.
Senate Resolution 234 voices support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s actions to secure the border amid federal inaction by the Biden Administration. It also encourages Gov. Josh Shapiro to join dozens of other governors from across the country who have announced their support of Abbott. The Biden Administration continues to fight Abbott’s lawful exercise of his Constitutional authority to defend his state and its citizens.
According to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, the country’s illegal immigrant population grew to 12.8 million by October 2023. It rose 2.6 million since January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office and used executive orders to move financial resources away from the border, suspend deportations and end the successful “Remain in Mexico” policy.
2023 Accomplishments: Cutting Red Tape
As 2024 kicks off, Senate Republicans will continue our work to cut red tape and improve the experience citizens have when they interact with their government and the agencies intended to serve them.
Already this session, we have passed my bill that would improve government efficiency by authorizing the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to return unclaimed property without requiring the owners to search for it. Another legislative measure would ensure Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Medical Assistance benefits are not spent on the deceased.
For the Pennsylvanians who must apply for a permit, license or certification, another bill would require state agencies to create an accessible website to explain why a permit application was rejected and enable permit applicants to check their application status. It would also deem a permit, license or certification approved if the agency reviewing the application misses its deadline – giving Pennsylvanians far more predictability than they currently have. This change would also help to attract more business to the state and boost our economy by addressing unreasonable permit delays.
Property Tax Relief is Available for Homeowners
Most homes and farms are eligible for property tax reduction under the Homestead Tax Exemption program.
Under a homestead or farmstead property tax exclusion, the assessed value of each homestead or farmstead is reduced by the same amount before the property tax is computed.
To receive school property tax relief for tax years beginning July 1 or Jan. 1, an application for homestead or farmstead exclusions must be filed by the preceding March 1. School districts are required to notify homeowners by Dec. 31 of each year if their property is not approved for the homestead or farmstead exclusion or if their approval is due to expire. Learn more and find an application.
Public Comment Regarding PPL Settlement Open Now
In late 2022 and early 2023, PPL customers experienced unusually high or low estimated bills, missing monthly bills and inadequate customer service support resulting in customers’ inability to reach PPL Call Center representatives to discuss their billing concerns.
To address those issues, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will evaluate and consider a joint settlement. As part of the evaluation, a public comment period regarding the proposed settlement is active through Feb. 28.
Customers may submit a comment by e-filing through the PUC or sending a written comment at the address below. All comments should reference the docket number of the case: M-2023-3038060.
Protecting Against Hypothermia and Frostbite
While this winter has been relatively mild so far, colder weather could set in at any time. Brushing up on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite can help you keep yourself and others safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed information about warning signs and prevention.
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and confusion. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to death. If someone is experiencing hypothermia, give them warm water and replace any wet clothing with dry layers. Seek medical attention if their body temperature is below 95 degrees.
Frostbite is an injury that can permanently damage the body and typically impacts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. Symptoms include painful, unusually firm or waxy skin. If impacted, warm the affected area but do not apply pressure. Stay a safe distance from heat sources and know when to get medical care.
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