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State Budget Debate Continues
Lawmakers recently returned to Harrisburg in hopes of completing the final components of the 2017-18 State Budget. The Legislature agreed to a General Fund budget back in July. However, we have yet to come to an agreement on a revenue plan to pay for this budget.
Fiscal responsibility means meeting our responsibilities and paying our bills. We cannot waver in that responsibility. Failure to pass a responsible plan will only end up costing taxpayers more money in short-term borrowing costs, as well as long-term interest costs due to repeated credit downgrades.
The Governor announced last week a number of alternate measures, including additional borrowing, intended to ease some of the pressure on the General Fund. While it remains unclear if his plan is constitutional, his actions should not weaken our resolve to find a responsible solution to the challenges we currently face in balancing the budget.
While I have not, do not, and will not support more taxes, I do believe other non-tax options exist for new revenue. For example, one of these options is consideration of the removal of the Governor’s ban on non-surface disturbance drilling on state forest land. Restoring the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) ability to provide new natural gas leases in a safe and responsible manner will generate much-needed revenue for DCNR.
We all have a shared goal of balancing the budget without reaching deeper into taxpayers’ wallets. I remain hopeful we can accomplish that goal soon, and I will continue to fight to ensure the final agreement does not have a negative impact on our communities.
I had the honor of presenting a check on behalf of the Magellan Cares Foundation to Club Serenity in Charleroi last month. Thank you for all that you do in helping community residents conquer addiction!
Domestic Violence Awareness Month Features Legislative Efforts to Protect Victims
October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in an effort to help prevent this terrible crime and encourage victims to seek help. On average, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide each day. It is critical to raise awareness of this problem to ensure victims get the assistance they so desperately need.
In the General Assembly, a number of efforts are ongoing to protect domestic violence victims. Several months ago, the Senate approved Senate Bill 449, legislation I sponsored to ensure judges can use risk assessment tools when setting bail in domestic violence cases. The legislation, which was named Tierne’s Law in honor of Washington County domestic violence victim Tierne Ewing, would help keep some of the most dangerous offenders behind bars.
In addition, I joined two of my colleagues in the Senate to introduce a bill last week that would allow domestic violence victims who live in public housing to be relocated to another apartment if it would be dangerous for them to remain in the current residence. It is my hope that this legislation will give victims a way out of a dangerous situation.
If you or someone you know is involved in a domestic violence situation, assistance is available by contacting Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern PA at (724) 223-9190 in Washington County or (724) 852-2463 in Greene County. Beaver County residents can receive assistance by calling the Women’s Center helpline at (724) 775-0131.
Thanks to all of the community residents who came out for the Greene County Senior Expo which I co-hosted with Rep. Pam Snyder and the Greene County Board of Commissioners in conjunction with the Southwest Area Agency on Aging. I enjoyed speaking with dozens of constituents and hearing their perspectives on issues facing older Pennsylvanians.
Beaver County Satellite Office Open on Monday
My satellite district office will be open on Monday, October 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The office is located in the Hopewell Township Building on 1700 Clark Boulevard in Aliquippa. If my staff and I can assist you with any questions or concerns pertaining to state government matters, I encourage you to visit.
Ballot Question Offers Opportunity for Property Tax Elimination
No issue generates more calls and letters to my office than the school property tax. Finding a way to severely reduce or eliminate this burden on homeowners remains a top priority for me, but lawmakers have run into difficulties in finding a way to replace this lost revenue and fund our schools. We need to find a solution that eases the burden for homeowners, while at the same time guaranteeing Harrisburg does not shortchange our local schools.
While lawmakers continue to work toward real and meaningful property tax reform, voters will have a chance to make their voices heard on this issue in November by voting on a ballot question that could allow local taxing bodies to completely eliminate property taxes through the existing homestead exemption.
Current law only allows taxing bodies to exempt 50 percent of the median assessed value. Very few local governments have exercised this option since it would allow the property tax to remain in place at a reduced rate while other local taxes would need to be increased. If approved by voters, the ballot question would allow local governments to completely eliminate the property tax for homeowners in their area, which may be a more attractive option for local governments.
More information about the ballot question is available here.
I was pleased to recently participate in a ceremony marking the arrival of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to Waynesburg, Greene County. God bless all of the heroes we lost in the Vietnam War and to all of our beloved veterans.
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building