Senator Bob Mensch - February 8, 2013 Weekly Session Wrap-Up
This week marked the start of the 2013-14 budget process, as Governor Corbett proposed his spending plan before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
Details are below. The good news is revenues are up, so we can fund essential programs without raising income taxes. While the commonwealth is certainly not awash in money and fiscal challenges remain, I was especially pleased to see that the proposed budget includes funding for adults with intellectual disabilities. I'll be working with my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to carefully review this proposal in the coming weeks.
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Governor Corbett Unveils 2013-14 State Budget Request
Governor Tom Corbett unveiled a $28.4 billion state budget before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
The governor's budget proposal includes a 2.4 percent increase in spending from the current fiscal year without increasing income taxes. The increased spending would be covered primarily by a projected current fiscal year revenue surplus of $232 million and revenue growth of 1.5 percent ($429 million) in the next fiscal year.
It is encouraging to see the Administration is projecting substantial revenue surplus for the current fiscal year and a renewed emphasis on promoting economic growth and attracting business relocation to Pennsylvania.
I'll be carefully reviewing the proposed budget along with my fellow members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee has scheduled three weeks of public hearings on the governor's proposal, beginning Tuesday, February 19. The state's current fiscal year ends on June 30.
The governor proposed a $90 million increase (to $5.49 billion) in Basic Education funding for local school districts and maintains the $100 million Accountability Block Grant program. Nearly $11.5 million in new money is allocated for early childhood education.
Special education ($1.026 billion) and community college funding ($212 million) are maintained at current levels. The budget also maintains funding for state and state-related universities at current levels. In return for $1.58 billion in funding to higher education, university leaders have pledged to work to keep tuition increases as low as possible for their students.
Other notable items proposed in the governor's budget include:
- $17.4 million in new money for economic development and job creation efforts.
- A $13.5 million increase in funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- $20 million to provide home and community-based services for approximately 1,200 Pennsylvania adults with intellectual disabilities.
- Funding for three new classes of cadets for the Pennsylvania State Police -- a total of 290 new cadets -- plus the hiring of 90 civilian police dispatchers.
- The governor's public pension reform proposals that would result in a $177 million reduction of the projected $511 million increase in costs in the next fiscal year.
I am pleased to see that the proposed budget includes funding for adults with intellectual disabilities. I also look forward to having serious discussions on funding for the transportation needs of the Commonwealth.
I am confident all of the proposals that the governor set forward will be fully discussed and debated in an open manner before coming to the Senate floor. Senate Republicans are committed to enacting a fiscally responsible budget in a timely manner while protecting the interests of Pennsylvania taxpayers.
Community-Based Health Care Clinics Initiative Advances
The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee approved legislation to develop and expand community-based health care clinics in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 5, which I am co-sponsoring, sets the framework to foster the growth of clinics as a way to provide integrated care "medical homes" to uninsured low-income individuals. Governor Corbett's proposed 2013-14 budget includes $4 million to create new community-based health care clinics and expand services at existing
Committee Approves Timely Reporting of Personal Data Breaches
State agencies and local governments would be required to expeditiously notify the public of data breaches involving personal information. This legislation, which I am co-sponsoring, was unanimously approved by the Senate Communications and Technology Committee on Wednesday.
Current law requires public notification of such incidents "without unreasonable delay." Senate Bill 114 sets a
specific one-week notification requirement for breaches involving state agencies and local governments.
Benevolent Gesture Bill Clears Committee
Health care professionals may again be able to say "I'm sorry" without fear of legal consequences under legislation approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 379, which I am co-sponsoring, makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by certain health care workers inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is defined in the bill as any action that conveys a sense of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion, or commiseration emanating from humane impulses. The bill would apply to health care providers and assisted living residence workers who make a benevolent gesture regarding a patient's discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death.
Legislation Would Standardize Gas Royalty Deductions
The Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring natural gas companies operating in Pennsylvania, to standardize all deductions on royalty check payment stubs.
Senate Bill 259 would require companies producing natural gas to show on each royalty check stub, attachment to a payment form, or other remittance advice a detailed itemization of all royalty deductions from royalties paid to a leaseholder. Currently, the state of Pennsylvania does not require gas companies to list deductions in any standardized form from royalties paid to a landowner.
SB 259 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Two key Senate hearings next week…On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on the Corbett Administration's Transportation Funding Plan. On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Senate Education Committee will hold a joint public hearing on School Emergency Plans and Security Measures. You can view both hearings live at the Senate Republican website, and I'll provide a report in our next Session Wrap Up e-newsletter.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled three weeks of public hearings on the governor's proposal, beginning Tuesday, February 19. I'll be sending out weekly summaries and video of these hearings as they take place.
Click here for a schedule of Senate committee
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