Debt Reduction Measure Heads to Governor’s Desk
10/19/2018
Debt Reduction Measure Heads to Governor’s Desk
 

House Bill 83, which I sponsored with my colleague Rep. John Lawrence, was passed by the Senate and sent to the governor’s desk this week. This legislation puts Harrisburg one step closer to becoming true fiscal stewards of Pennsylvania citizens’ hard-earned money. While the economy is improving for Pennsylvanians, we must continue to reign in government debt.

House Bill 83 would require the administration to use responsible debt management practices by repaying new capital debt using a level principal payment approach, which saves taxpayer dollars by reducing the amount spent on interest. An analysis by House Appropriations Committee staff estimates that this one reform would reduce outstanding general obligation debt by $1 billion over 20 years.

During the 10-year period from 2008 through 2017, outstanding general obligation debt increased by $3.832 billion, an increase of almost 47 percent. Over that same period, debt service paid out of the General Fund grew from $1 billion to $1.407 billion, an increase of almost 47 percent. Per capita debt increased by $85 in the one-year period from 2016 to 2017, or 7.8 percent. Per capita debt at the end of fiscal year 2017 was $1,172.
 
 
Honoring Pennsylvania Special Olympics Athletes 


 

We recently recognized more two dozen Pennsylvania Special Olympics athletes, as well as their coaches and family members, in the House of Representatives. The athletes, who come from 27 different counties across the Commonwealth, each brought home at least one medal after taking part in the national competition in Seattle in July.
 
 
Bipartisan Bill to Address Harrisburg’s Financial Issues Moves to Governor
 
This week the House and Senate passed House Bill 2557, which would address the city of Harrisburg’s financial issues through a reasonable and responsible approach. Harrisburg entered Act 47 “financially distressed” city status in 2011 and was due to exit Act 47 at the end of this year; however, it became clear that the city did not have an exit strategy.

The main component of House Bill 2557 is the creation of an Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) which will be governed by a five-member board appointed by the legislature and the governor. The inclusion of an ICA was modeled after legislation I authored in 2004 to assist the city of Pittsburgh in its financial recovery. It is an important reform that will benefit Harrisburg, just as it was a vital part of the fiscal recovery and ultimate rise out of Act 47 by Pittsburgh. The ICA is tasked with developing a financial plan for the city.
 
 
Welfare Reform Package Sent to the Governor
 

A package of bills aimed at reforming welfare programs in Pennsylvania were passed by the House and Senate this week. These bills include:

HB 2138 – This legislation directs the governor to apply for a federal waiver to establish a work requirement under Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance program for able-bodied adult recipients. The requirement may be satisfied by either 20 hours of work per week or by completing 12 job training program-related activities a month. It is important to note that disabled individuals, children, individuals older than 65 years of age and pregnant women are exempt from the requirement.

SB 6 – This legislation prohibits high-level felony drug dealers and non-compliant sex offenders from receiving public benefits. The bill places controls on how and where EBT cards can be used, preventing the use of cards at casinos and adult entertainment venues. It also requires the Department of Human Services to work cooperatively with the Office of Inspector General to detect and root out benefit fraud. Lastly, it requires that lottery winnings of more than $600 be counted as a resource for the purposes of calculating eligibility for welfare programs.

SB 1127 – This legislation would impose stronger penalties against individuals and businesses that unlawfully trade goods or services in exchange for SNAP (food stamps) benefits. An individual convicted of SNAP trafficking in excess of $2,500 could be found guilty of a second-degree felony and be required to pay restitution up to three times the amount of fraud committed. Last year, the state Office of Inspector General uncovered a scheme involving a Harrisburg restaurant trading drugs for EBT cards and buying thousands of dollars of supplies from a food wholesale club to be resold for profit.
 
 
Increased Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders
 

 
The House and Senate passed Senate Bill 961 this week, which would increase penalties for people who repeatedly drive under the influence. This legislation creates the first-ever felony DUI in Pennsylvania for a person convicted of their third DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher and all persons convicted of their fourth or subsequent DUI. Additionally, the bill: 
  • Increases the minimum penalty for homicide by vehicle while intoxicated from three to five years if the person has one prior DUI and from three to seven years if they have two or more prior DUIs.
  • Establishes increased penalties for driving while under suspension for a prior DUI from a fine of $500 and imprisonment of at least 60 days to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of at least 90 days. A third or subsequent offense would result in a fine of $2,500 and at least six months in jail.
  • Prohibits the adult driver required to accompany a person driving on a learner’s permit from being impaired to a degree that they endanger themselves or others.
 
Serving Our Veterans
 

When our nation’s military men and women return home after service, they not only deserve our gratitude, but often times need our help. My district office in McCandless will be hosting veterans’ outreach hours on Friday, Oct. 26.

Openings are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by appointment only. Please call my office at 412-369-2230 to schedule an appointment.

During these special hours, a veteran’s outreach specialist will meet with local veterans and assist them with issues they may be having accessing benefits and services from the U.S. Veterans Administration.

It gives me great satisfaction to make programs available to our men and women who have served with such dignity. Veterans are a symbol of what makes our country great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.
For more information, contact my district office in McCandless at 125 Hillvue Lane, first floor, McCandless.
 
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