Scott

Dear Neighbors, At long last, Pennsylvania finally has a state budget. This budget took far too long to settle – going more than 100 days beyond the statemandated deadline of June 30. Typically, the process of negotiating a state budget involves research, analysis, negotiation and compromise, and can begin as soon as the governor gives his budget address in February. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I can tell you how difficult this year has been. We held hearings in March and April regarding every department. This year, the budget process could not begin in earnest until June because of rapidly changing economic circumstances. In light of the fact that our prior fiscal year ended with a $3.2 billion budget deficit, I was determined to rein-in spending. I supported a budget that cut spending below the previous year’s level yet preserved funding for essential government services. I also rejected attempts to impose major increases in the Personal Income Tax (PIT) and sales tax, which I believe would have had a detrimental effect given the current economic climate. In my opinion, the budget that was ultimately presented for a vote spends too much money and allocates funds in ways I do not support. Therefore, I voted against it. Just as many of you spend only the money available to you and budget accordingly, I

State Representative

178th Legislative District
believe the state must do the same by making sure that the budget is balanced and in place by June 30 each year. There is absolutely no excuse for delays, and vital services should not be subject to a line-item veto in order to pressure the Legislature to pass a budget. Many items that were not in dispute, such as child care and textbooks for non-public schools were previously vetoed. I did not vote for the budget because it does not appropriately account for the current economic situation. The $27.8 billion plan overspends, drains critical state reserve accounts, burdens Pennsylvanians with $500 million in new or increased taxes, and relies too heavily on stimulus funding and one-time revenue. The fiscal year 2009-2010 budget puts both state government and taxpayers in a vulnerable position because state revenues continue to fall short. State reserve accounts that were depleted include the Rainy Day Fund, $755 million; the Health Care Provider Retention Account, $808 million; and the Tobacco Endowment Account, $150 million. The Rainy Day Fund was developed to help keep the Commonwealth’s General Fund budget in balance and avoid tax increases. Draining the Rainy Day Fund leaves the state without a safety net going into the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Additional budgetary dilemmas loom in the

PETRI

Fall 2009

near future, such as substantial increases in pension contribution rates. Also, the $2.6 billion in federal stimulus relied upon so heavily in the current budget will not be available. State revenues through October were already $160.2 million below projections for the year. Monitoring our state revenues and expenditures on a monthly basis will be important. I will actively support new regulations to avoid future budget impasses. I will also work to address our state’s looming fiscal obstacles before they become crises. While times are challenging, opportunities to help our neighbors and our communities are more available than ever. Our success will be measured by how we, as a community, address our local challenges. During the summer, I held six town hall meetings to discuss the budget and our communities’ priorities. I heard from many of you during the budget process and appreciate your thoughts and concerns. You will surely see the results of spending cuts, and there will be pain. However, I am hopeful that by being careful with your hard-earned money, we will weather the current economic storm and not reach deeper into your pockets.

Scott A. Petri State Representative 178th Legislative District

State Auditor General Jack Wagner recently released a report on fraud and inefficiencies within the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and state Attorney General Tom Corbett has charged DPW employees and others in multiple cases of welfare fraud. Welfare spending accounts for more than one-third of the entire state budget. DPW is responsible for administering programs and funding for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly and disabled citizens. These precious dollars must be guarded so that monies go to qualified recipients. Welfare fraud drains these resources.

Welfare Reform Sorely Needed
Wagner has so far uncovered more than $600 million in losses to fraud, and earlier this year, 12 people, including nine DPW employees, were arrested on charges they stole $500,000 from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides heating assistance to low-income people. Few safeguards presently exist to protect the state and taxpayers from these abuses. I believe that significant savings may be achieved by closing loopholes to ensure the integrity of the welfare system. I support efforts to verify the identity and eligibility of those who receive public assistance and other measures to ensure that state money is going to those for whom it is intended.

One measure would empower county assistance offices to report cases of suspected fraud directly to the Office of Inspector General. This would give personnel, who are local and have direct contact with welfare recipients, the opportunity to report applicants who provide false information to receive public assistance benefits such as Medical Assistance, cash assistance or food stamps. Commonsense measures are necessary to protect your tax dollars and to enable us to continue to serve those who are truly in need.

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State Budget Took Too Long, Costs Too Much
The $27.8 billion state budget was finally approved and signed by the governor on Oct. 9, a full 101 days beyond the state mandated June 30 deadline. I voted against passage of the budget as proposed because I believe it spends too much, taxes too much, and leaves Pennsylvania vulnerable next year and for the foreseeable future. The budget relies too heavily on federal stimulus funding and other one-time revenue to pay for new or expanded programs for which there will be little or no money in future years. Of the $27.8 billion being spent in this budget year, $2.6 billion will come from federal stimulus dollars. While we can be thankful the funding was available to provide jobs and infrastructure improvements, it should not be used to grow government. In fact, it would seem sensible in this economic climate that we gradually reduce the reliance on government funding. Pennsylvania revenues for the new fiscal year are already more than $160 million short of projections. To make matters worse, the state budget drained critical reserve funds that will leave the state and taxpayers vulnerable going into yet another shaky budget year in 2010-11. The Rainy Day Fund was established as a reserve fund to help cover the cost of government in lean years. Thanks to some strong economic times, the fund stood at $755 million, but that amount was depleted with this year’s budget. There will be no reserves next year when revenues are projected to be flat. Another fund that was drained in this year’s budget was the Health Care Providers Retention Account. This account was established in 2003 to retain doctors in Pennsylvania. By imposing a 25 cent tax per pack of cigarettes, the fund raised $708 million to defray the cost of medical malpractice insurance for Pennsylvania physicians, particularly those in high-risk specialties. This year’s budget eliminates

Traffic Congestion Being Addressed
My office has been working with local officials, and the Bucks County Planning Commission to address long existing bottlenecks in Holland. We recently met with officials in Ivyland Borough, and Northampton and Warminster townships to discuss concerns at Bristol and Jacksonville Roads. No solutions come easy, but working together we can accomplish much.

this safety net and diverts the cigarette tax directly into the state’s General Fund to help cover the cost of state government. For the first time, this budget also dips into the principal contained in the tobacco settlement fund, claiming $150 million this year and $250 million more next year. The Medical Care Availability of Error Fund (MCARE), which replaced the Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss (CAT) Fund, was established in 2002 to ensure reasonable compensation for people injured due to medical negligence. Pennsylvania physicians are required to carry medical malpractice insurance. The MCARE fund was set up to cover damage awards that exceed primary insurance limits. This year’s budget claimed $100 million from the MCARE fund. We should not be taking money paid into the fund by doctors to balance our state budget. It is my understanding that the state’s use of the funds may be legally contested by doctors and hospitals. If they are successful and win their suit, the state will have a large hole in its budget.

EDUCATION

While public libraries suffered a $15 million hit and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program was cut significantly to help balance the budget, the state’s 500 school districts were some of the biggest winners this year. The school districts will receive an additional $300 million in education funding, spread across all districts statewide. The Philadelphia School District will receive $200 million more. In the 178th Legislative District, the following increases will occur in 2009-10: School District 2009-10 Increase Centennial Central Bucks Council Rock $1.95M $3.5 M $2.7 M 13.5% 15.6% 14%

TAXES

I was successful in preventing hikes in the Personal Income Tax, and a tax on small games of chance that would have had a devastating impact on volunteer fire companies, fraternal organizations and veterans groups. This budget contains $500 million in new taxes. By delaying the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise tax, Pennsylvania businesses that pay the tax will pay an extra $374 million this year. The budget also imposes an additional 25 cents per pack tax on cigarettes and a new tax of $1.60 per pack on little cigars for an estimated $117 million in new revenue.

Funding for special education, Pre-K Counts, Head Start and an elementary science program were held to last year’s state funding levels. However, federal stimulus money, which will run out after next year, provided a much-needed boost to basic and special education in this year’s budget. Funding for Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Lincoln and other so-called non-preferred institutions is being held up while discussions continue regarding the legalization of table games in Pennsylvania. Disagreements center on acceptable license fees and tax rates for casino operators. College funding needs to be resolved. Other funding cut from this year’s budget includes $15 million from libraries, $21 million from the State System of Higher Education, $33 million from health carerelated funding, $58 million in environmental expenditures, and the Legislature’s own budget was slashed by $17 million.

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Action Needed to Ensure Children Are Not Hostage to Future Budget Negotiations
Department of Education refused to order books for non-public schools during budget impasse.
In September, upon learning that Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak failed to process textbook orders for nonpublic school children until a state budget was passed, I joined with my Republican House and Senate colleagues in Bucks County in urging the secretary to do so. About 275,000 non-public school children across the Commonwealth did not have textbooks when the school year began and some are still waiting today. In a letter from the secretary, Zahorchak said the state budget impasse prevented him from processing the book orders. However, I believe the needs of our children, particularly when it comes to education, cannot be sacrificed while legislative leaders quibble over the details of a state budget that was months overdue. In subsequent communications, I asked the education secretary to detail what steps he would take to ensure that non-public school children receive their textbooks should the state experience another protracted budget battle in the future. Specifically, I asked, “What steps is the Department of Education taking to remedy this problem so that teachers and students attending non-public schools across Pennsylvania are not without textbooks for several months? We would like to hear your suggestions for new regulations or legislation to eliminate this most unfortunate circumstance.” Legislation that would prevent another state budget impasse, like the one we experienced this year, is being drafted. One proposal would continue the prior year’s budget into the new fiscal year should the governor and legislative leaders fail to agree on a new budget by June 30 -- the official end of the fiscal year. While not a perfect solution, this would have solved the problem that kept textbooks out of the hands of 275,000 Pennsylvania school children.

I-80 Tolling Issue Alive Again
T h e P e n n s y l v a n i a Tu r n p i k e Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation, seeking to convert Interstate 80 to a toll road. Federal approval is needed to toll I-80. An application filed last year was deemed by the feds to be deficient. The Rendell administration has plans to use the proceeds from tolls authorized under Act 44 of 2007 for highway and infrastructure improvements.

I am pleased to report that negotiations with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation over safety concerns along Maple Ave. in Southampton Township have improved driver and pedestrian safety in the area. Maple Ave. has been repaved, the posted speed limit has been lowered to 30 miles per hour, a four-way stop has been placed at the intersection of Maple Ave. and Harding Road. In addition, crosswalks have been added at the intersections of Maple Ave. and Harding Road, and at Maple and Hogeland Aves. Many thanks to the township supervisors and residents for making sure these long overdue improvements were made by PennDOT.

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Progress Being Made at Washington Crossing Historic Park
As many of you are likely already aware, funding for PA Historic Museum Commission (PHMC) has been significantly cut for three years in a row. This affects Washington Crossing Historic Park. Despite these cuts, the park has taken a number of steps in a positive direction. At the Oct. meeting of the Upper Makefield Township Board of Supervisors, the preliminary plans for the renovation and expansion of the Washington Crossing Visitor Center were unanimously approved. The supervisors also agreed to allow the PHMC to forgo a number of local requirements that will help cut some of the project’s soft costs; specifically, an escrow account that the state would normally be required to set aside to ensure that the township engineers and lawyers receive their pay, has been waived. A reimbursement agreement has been put in place. The township has the ability to stop construction should the township engineers and solicitors not be paid on time. The state will not be required to survey and certify the flood plain at Washington Crossing; county and federal flood maps will be relied upon instead. I am also proud to share with you that the park has hosted two volunteer clean up events that were extremely productive. The events took place on Aug. 22 and Sept. 27, and despite bad weather, both days resulted in hundreds of donated manhours. Everything from clearing downed trees and brush along the river banks, trimming and clean-up around the visitor center, and cleaning gutters was accomplished. Given the success of the two events, we are looking forward to having more community cleanup days at the park, probably in the spring. For the park to thrive in the future, increased community involvement will be necessary and I am happily looking forward to working with everyone to meet that challenge.

I had the pleasure of presenting citations on behalf of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to the following organizations, groups and individuals in honor of their distinguished service, exemplary actions and special recognition since my last newsletter. The following were recipients of the 2009 Burpee Emergency Services Award, presented by the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce: Francis Gorski of Lingohocken Fire Co., Kathy Card of Southampton Fire Co. No. 1, and Walter Boyce of Ivyland Fire Co. John and Cynthia Rodgers, recipients of the 2009 Real Heroes Award from the American Red Cross, Lower Bucks County Chapter; Joel Shpigel, R. Ph, recipient of the Joseph X. Yaffe-Robert Johnson Smith Civil Rights Award from the Montgomery County Advisory Council; Gail Olivieri, Upper Southampton Township Citizen of the Year by Inter-Service Club; Dr. Karen Williams, honored by YWCA of Bucks County, Women Who Make a Difference; Lori Williams, Keystone STARS Teacher

Awards & Citations
of the Year, Montgomery County; Michael Smedley, recipient of a National Twin-Vision Award from the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee for the Blind and the state Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, and Mary Fox Donnelly, Kick Out Kidney Disease award from National Kidney Foundation. Council Rock School District, recipient of the 2009 Energy Star Partner of the Year from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Service Awards & Recognition

The following attained the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor awarded by the Boy Scouts of America: David Boodey, Wrightstown; Peter Ciarlante, Newtown; Patrick Smith, Holland; James McCarron V, Richboro; Christopher Faust, Washington Crossing; Sean MacGahan, Ivyland; Marty Leicht, Ivyland; Kevin Soboloski, Ivyland; Timothy Jun-Nung Lee, Holland; Alexander Ryan Schaffer, Holland; Shaun Libou, Holland; David Dwyer, Richboro, Ray Reinard III, Newtown, and William James Newman, Richboro.

Eagle Scouts

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Richmond, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Solly, and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Reynolds were honored in celebration of 50 years of marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Castro were honored for 60 years of marriage. Bethanna conference center and Bible camp celebrates its 75th anniversary. Francis M. Gorski, 50 years of distinguished service to the Lingohocken Fire Co. Raymond E. Breuninger, honored on his retirement after 35 years with the Defense Contract Manag ement Agency. David C. Schultz, police chief, Upper Southampton Township on his 45 years of service to the department and the community, and Upper Southampton Police Lt. David R. Johnson, 43 years of service

Anniversaries

Retirements

John E. Long, Jr., Charlotte Moran, Peter F. Rice, Rose M. Shotts and Joseph A. Fluehr.

Condolences

STATE REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT A. PETRI
www.reppetri.com

DISTRICT OFFICE: The Weather Vane / 95 Almshouse Road, Suite 303 / Richboro, PA 18954 / Phone: (215) 364-3414 / Fax: (215) 364-8626 HARRISBURG OFFICE: B15 Main Capitol Building / PO Box 202178 / Harrisburg, PA 17120-2178 / Phone: (717) 787-9033 / Fax: (717) 705-1802

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