In this Update:
How Should We Improve Access to Health Care?
As the number of primary care doctors continues to dwindle, especially in rural areas, Pennsylvanians will continue to face reduced access to care without a change of some kind.
One possible solution is to allow more nurse practitioners – after they have fulfilled the necessary requirements – to practice here.
I am interested in your thoughts about simplifying the state law that currently prevents them from providing services to the full extent of their knowledge, training and education. Please share your thoughts by filling out this one-question survey on my website.
Committees Pass Two of My Bills
This week, two of my bills received support from various committees in the General Assembly.
First, Senate Bill 224, which received unanimous support from the House Education Committee, would simplify the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in the commonwealth.
In response to Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage, it would allow an out-of-state candidate who has completed any state-approved educator preparation program from an accredited institution of higher education, including field placement/student teaching, to be eligible for a comparable in-state instructional certification. This measure will now go before the full House for consideration.
The Senate Finance Committee passed Senate Bill 321, which would create jobs for Pennsylvanians by increasing the current level of state assistance for the Film Tax Credit program from $70 million to $125 million.
Pennsylvania only allows 10 to 12 productions to film and qualify for the tax credit program annually. Each year, the state turns away productions after the program has been exhausted, resulting in job opportunities being turned away for Pennsylvanians and an additional boost to the economy being lost.
This bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration.
Additional information on these measures can be found on my website.
Recognizing Pennsylvania’s Working Animals
Earlier this week, I joined some of my colleagues and leaders from the Pennsylvania Working Animal Foundation to recognize the police and military K-9s, search and rescue dogs and horses, service dogs and therapy animals that work for people. It was great to meet these special animals and learn about the valuable roles they play in our lives. Among the exhibits and demonstrations present was Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc.
Declining Revenue Projections Highlight the Risk of Gov. Wolf’s Budget Plan
The state Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its initial revenue estimate for 2022-23 and warns that tax revenue is likely to fall in the coming fiscal year. The IFO’s projection for General Fund revenue next year is $42.26 billion – about an 11.5% drop from 2021-22.
The new numbers further highlight the risk of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget and emphasize what Senate Republicans have been saying all along: the governor’s bloated spending plan is unrealistic and unsustainable. His plan to increase spending by more than $4.5 billion next year would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security.
The new figures from the IFO build on previous analysis that shows the potential for Gov. Wolf’s $45.7 billion budget to create multi-billion-dollar deficits for years to come.
As the June 30 deadline for enacting a state budget approaches, Senate Republicans will work to draft a more responsible plan that protects taxpayers already struggling with staggering inflation and an uncertain financial future.
Senate Acts to Improve Access to Property Tax and Rent Rebates
The Senate acted to close a loophole that made many senior citizens ineligible for the state Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The bill moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The problem arose when senior citizens transferred retirement funds into other retirement accounts, which would show up as available income on an application and make the individual ineligible for help lowering their property taxes.
Senate Bill 230 would allow retirees to transfer those retirement account investments between accounts within 60 days without counting toward income when applying for property tax or rent relief. If those funds are not invested into another qualified retirement plan within 60 days, the funds will be considered income.
PUC Offers Tips for Dealing with June Electric Rate Hikes
With costs for electric generation increasing on June 1 for many utility customers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding consumers they have options to manage anticipated higher bills.
According to the PUC, the best response for those struggling to pay energy bills is to call utilities and ask about assistance programs, manage energy use and shop for competitive electric generation suppliers. You can find more from the PUC about consumer options here.
The rate increase will occur even before Gov. Tom Wolf’s carbon tax kicks in, which could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers. The carbon tax is part of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was enacted by the governor without legislative approval.
Further Extension of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to June 17
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended a second time to June 17, allowing additional households to apply for help.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the state that provides assistance for home heating bills. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners.
Paying for College and Career Training with 529 Accounts
Sunday is College and Career Savings Day to promote the savings opportunities offered by 529 accounts, such as the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program.
The PA 529 College and Career Savings Program offers two plans, the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP). PA 529 GSP account earnings are based on college tuition inflation rates, while PA 529 IP account earnings are tied to investment choice and financial market performance.
PA 529 accounts can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, equipment and room and board at technical schools, apprenticeship programs, community colleges and four-year colleges nationwide. Through Tuesday, May 31, families can take advantage of special PA 529 promotions at pa529.com/529day.
Memorial Day: Our Duty to Remember
I hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend with friends and family and take some time to remember the profound sacrifice of those who died fighting for our nation.