In this Update:
Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget: Week Two
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
Among the highlights:
At the hearing for the Attorney General’s Office, committee members discussed concerns with state government’s cyber security infrastructure. Last year, a data breach involving a Department of Health contractor exposed tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians’ personal information to hackers. The hearing also covered the latest stats from the Safe2Say Something anonymous threat reporting system for schools.
Philadelphia’s skyrocketing homicide rate was also an important topic of conversation. Notably, when it was suggested that Attorney General Josh Shapiro use the power of his office to encourage Philadelphia District Attorney to prosecute crimes, he replied: “I don’t need your advice in terms of what I say and how I say it.”
At the hearing for the Department of Community and Economic Development, members stressed the need to improve Pennsylvania’s economic standing, noting that the current Corporate Net Income Tax rate has prevented many businesses from relocating and investing in Pennsylvania.
You can find information on other budget hearings, hearing video, livestreams and more at PASenateGOP.com.
Pennsylvania Acts to Support Ukraine
Pennsylvania has the second-largest population of Ukrainian Americans in the nation, with more than 122,000. Pennsylvania government is planning several responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in order to deny funds to Russia and show solidarity with Ukrainians.
In the aftermath of the invasion, I immediately called for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) to stop selling vodka made in Russia. As House Republicans and Governor Wolf echoed my sentiments, PLCB agreed to pull those products from the shelves.
Treasurer Stacy Garrity said the Treasury had started to divest its holdings in Russian-based companies. The Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System is gathering details about its exposure to Russian-related investments and could divest in a few weeks.
To keep Russia in check in the long term, we must reassert America’s energy independence. Increasing domestic energy production and exports to European countries will go a long way toward reducing Russian influence and denying the regime the funds it needs to make war.
My statement on the invasion of Ukraine and the need for a strong, swift response is available here.
Assistance for Home Septic Repairs, Sewer Hook-ups
Low-interest loans are available to eligible Pennsylvania homeowners who need to repair or replace their on-lot septic system or connect to a public sewer.
The assistance can help homeowners avoid or respond to municipal citations and improve the environmental health of their property. Loan terms are up to 20 years (up to 15 years for manufactured homes). There is no prepayment penalty if the loan is paid off early. The maximum loan amount is $25,000.
The program is administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. You can find more information and terms here.
PA ABLE Helps Families Save for Disability-Related Expenses
In 2016, the General Assembly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and created PA ABLE accounts that give individuals with qualified disabilities, their families and friends a tax-free way to save for disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits.
Administered by the Pennsylvania Treasury, the accounts allow people with disabilities and their families the opportunity to save up to $100,000, without affecting eligibility for important government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid. The withdrawals from the accounts for qualified expenses related to an individual’s disabilities are also considered exempt from federal and state taxes, and the accounts are not subject to Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax.
To learn more about how you might be able to save money with the program, the Pennsylvania Treasury is hosting free webinars, with the next one for individuals with disabilities, families and professionals scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 from 6-7 p.m.
Disabled Veteran Real Estate Tax Exemption
Pennsylvania veterans with a financial need who served during a period of war and are 100% disabled could benefit from a state real estate tax exemption program.
An applicant whose gross annual income exceeds $95,279 will be considered to have a financial need for the exemption if allowable expenses exceed household income. You can find details about eligibility here.
Contact your local County Veterans Affairs Director to apply for this program.
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