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On June 30, the state Legislature passed a budget on time for the ﬁrst time in eight years, but that is where the good news ends. Haste makes waste! When the budget bill was announced on the House ﬂoor that night, I argued vehemently that it was premature. The budget was far from complete and we all knew it. To vote on a budget in the interest of expediency was not the right thing to do. The Legislature’s determination to save face after last year’s 101-day budget impasse by passing a budget that was incomplete and unbalanced will cost us all dearly. I voted against this budget and here are some of the reasons why: The budget relies on funding that is speculative at best and, at $28.02 billion, we are simply spending too much. The budget assumed $850 million in Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) stimulus funds. Congress recently approved only $600 million, leaving Pennsylvania with a $250 million funding gap. It was clearly irresponsible to count on this money when it was known that it might not fully materialize. Now the governor will be forced to choose between cutting programs, eliminating jobs and raising taxes to make up the difference. There were many cuts in this year’s budget. The governor managed to increase spending for public basic education by $250 million. The share of Bucks County schools from this increase is very small. Philadelphia schools receive most of the increase. This funding could be in peril due to the loss of FMAP funds. What’s worse is that many other line items of education were cut drastically, meaning that most of our schools will experience a net loss. Next year the projected loss in basic education without federal stimulus money is around $600 million. Incredibly, there was nothing in the budget for job creation or for job creators. Right now, unemployment and under employment is one of the greatest obstacles to our economic recovery. In fact, it is costing us dearly. Two years ago, if we raised the state income tax by one-tenth of 1 percent, we would have raised $500 million. Today, one-tenth of 1 percent of the state income tax is equal to $300 million
178th Legislative District
in revenue. That is a 40 percent reduction in state income tax. Is it any surprise that Pennsylvanians are suffering? Many are lauding the budget as containing no new taxes. However, it is a safe bet that when anticipated revenues or federal funding does not come through, there will be calls for new and increased taxes. While I must commend our work on the Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member, about $1 billion was cut from Governor Ed Rendell’s original budget wish list and the overall spending plan is still at least a half billion dollars too high. Perhaps most disappointing is that there is nothing in this budget to prepare for the ﬁscal challenges ahead. The Commonwealth is facing a projected $3 billion to $5 billion shortfall next year when federal stimulus money dries up. The state is defending a lawsuit stemming from last year’s raiding of the MCare Fund, and pension obligations are looming. Prudent planning should have included further cuts in spending last year, this year, and next year. We need to look for ways to stimulate our economy and get people back to work, and we need to closely examine how we spend the taxpayers’ money and spend it like it was our own. That is why I have proposed Rebuild PA and Energy Independence Bonds—private bond programs whereby there is no government inducement except to ensure that the bond recipient keeps its promise to investors not to outsource jobs for the projects. Because I believe it is important and appropriate for you to know how your tax dollars are spent, over the past two years I have held a series of public hearings in my district to both provide information and to address your questions regarding the state budget. I will continue to provide information to you. As always, your input is appreciated and welcome.
Small Business Seminar to Promote Job Creation
In June, I hosted a small business seminar at Bucks County Community College to provide a onestop shop for those interested in starting or growing a small business in Pennsylvania. I believe that small businesses and business development generally are key to job creation and getting our state’s economy back on track, but often those who are interested in starting a business don’t know where to start. They need answers and they don’t know where to turn to get the advice and assistance they need. My goal was to make it easy. Experts and resources were brought together under one roof where would-be entrepreneurs could attend presentations, ask questions and pick up valuable forms and materials. Representatives of the Bucks County Workforce Investment Board, CareerLink, accounting and insurance firms, an attorney, the Small Business Development Center, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Department of Labor and Industry, and local zoning and land use boards were available to share their knowledge. The seminar was so well received that I plan to hold another on Thursday, Oct. 7, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Bucks County Community College. Admission is free and all are welcome. I encourage anybody who is interested in starting their own business to take advantage of this worthwhile event.
Scott A. Petri State Representative 178th Legislative District
For more information visit www.RepPetri.com today!
Pension Reforms Fall Short
The House-approved plan to reform the state’s ailing pension systems is a good start. I support several amendments which would provide for real reform. The plan returns the pension plan to the law as it existed in 2000 including increased vesting periods, increased retirement ages, and caps on increases to save taxpayers money. I joined nine of my House colleagues in introducing amendments to House Bill 2497 that would have further softened the ﬁnancial blow that is coming in 2012 when the state’s contribution to the plans is scheduled to rise sharply. My amendment and those of several other House members were not permitted to be considered for a vote, despite having been ﬁled in a timely manner. The House should not fear an open debate on further pension reform measures. There is no silver bullet to resolving this crisis. All solutions should be debated. We approved major reforms to the state pension systems, but I wanted those reforms to go much further. From my ﬁrst days as a legislator, I have been pushing for a tax deferred retirement plan to save school districts and the state money and to make contributions more predictable. My amendment would have established an optional deﬁned beneﬁt retirement plan for individuals under the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), giving employers another choice. Other cost-saving amendments that were not considered would: Establish a statewide deﬁned contribution plan for future state and local public employees, including public school teachers; Convert PSERS to a deﬁned contribution/ deﬁned beneﬁt plan for future employees; Allow federal stimulus money not targeted to a specific program to cover PSERS’ unfunded liability; Minimum contribution rates to eliminate future spikes in contribution rates; Increase PSERS employer contribution rate to allow school districts to pay off shortfalls before the projected rate spike, and Removal of the cap on school district reserve balances for future pension contributions, permitting school districts to contribute more and taxpayers to save in the future. Pennsylvania is currently facing a multibillion dollar unfunded liability in its pension systems. The changes contained in HB 2497 will not affect retirement beneﬁts for existing SERS or PSERS members. Instead, they will apply to new hires. The plan will help address future expenses and will enable the state and school districts to better manage their annual pension obligations. The bill is now in the Senate which may add additional reforms. Both retirement systems are funded by employee and employer contributions and investment earnings. Lagging employer contributions and a down economy are largely responsible for the pension crisis that will require an estimated 30 percent increase in employer contributions in 2012, if not addressed by legislative action. To help avert a crisis, it was necessary to restructure the plan for future employees by changing contribution rates, extending the time it takes for a new employee to become vested, increasing the retirement age and eliminating the lump sum payout option. The pension system will look different for future employees. Changes were necessary to smooth out what would have been a certain ﬁscal disaster. It’s just unfortunate we have not yet had the opportunity to do more. Hopefully, the Senate will amend the bill to provide additional measures. HB 2497 passed by a vote of 192-6 in the House and is now under consideration in the Senate Finance committee.
Highlights of Pending Legislation
The following is a brief description and status of some of the House Bills I am sponsoring:
HB 2249 – Proposes a change in the Pennsylvania Liquor Code to allow a volunteer ﬁre company to obtain a club liquor license regardless of whether the licensing quota in the host county has been met. Current law will not permit the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to issue a license to a club once the county’s licensing quota is ﬁlled. HB 2248 – This legislation would force those who commit hoaxes to pay full restitution for the cost of investigating their crime. HB 1383 – Requires a cost beneﬁt analysis on state contracts that exceed $50,000 unless such would adversely affect public health, safety and welfare, or the urgency will not permit a delay. Contracts would also be posted on the state Treasury Department website. HB 2194 – This legislation would expand the authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to arrange for formal military burials of deceased U.S. veterans at Washington Crossing National Cemetery. State law presently permits such burials only at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County and National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Washington County. HB 788 – This bill would establish an Ofﬁce of Children’s Ombudsman to investigate complaints of suspected child abuse and follow up to help prevent tragic circumstances. HR 117 – This joint resolution calls for a study to determine the feasibility of creating a regional public transportation system to serve the southeast region of the state. The study would look at savings that can be achieved by consolidating SEPTA, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Delaware River Port Authority, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission and the Philadelphia Airport under one transportation umbrella. The new regional authority would include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties.
MCare Decision Appealed
The Rendell administration has filed an appeal of a court decision ordering the administration to return $850 million that it raided from the MCare Fund. It was wrong to use this money to ﬁll holes in the budget and I support the court’s decision to give the money back. MCare is a fund paid into by doctors and hospitals to help defray the cost of exorbitant medical malpractice claims.
Gas Tax Expected to be on Agenda in Fall
The issue of taxing natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region is expected to come up this fall. The Legislature will debate such issues as the rate of taxation, when to apply the tax and what environmental rules and regulations will be necessary. While I believe drilling in Marcellus Shale will create jobs and be a source of additional revenue for the Commonwealth, we must proceed cautiously. Any taxes on extraction should be used for environmental monitoring, clean up and infrastructure improvements around the sites. Some of the revenue is necessary for administrative oversight and enforcement of environmental regulations, but this money should not be absorbed into the General Fund.
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Community Support Making a Difference at Washington Crossing Historic Park
The Friends of Washington Crossing Historic Park has entered into a one-year agreement to provide park volunteers to help with visitor services such as tours and educational programs. It is important that this park remain open for all residents of Pennsylvania, and my goal is to ensure that everyone receives the best possible visitor experience. We will break ground for the Washington Crossing Park Visitor Center any day now. The long overdue restoration of the visitor center will return Washington Crossing to the historical landmark that it once was. My thanks to the many volunteers who donated their time to improve the condition of the park, which has been underfunded and fell into disrepair. By working together as a community, we can ensure that the park receives appropriate care. Due to legitimate concerns over deeding a portion of the park to an outside entity, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney plans to hold a public hearing of the Senate State Government committee in Bucks County. While there was a hearing several years ago, it is important to revisit this issue to ensure that the community is aware and comfortable with any changes in the management of the park.
Field of Dreams Becoming Reality in Northampton
I have long supported the efforts of local residents to create the Northampton Miracle League, a ﬁeld dedicated to sporting activities for special needs children. The task at ﬁrst seemed insurmountable. However, the Northampton Township supervisors and a determined community are raising the funds that will make this dream a reality. We will soon break ground for the ﬁeld in the park on Hatboro Road. There are about 100 Miracle League ﬁelds throughout the country and 100 more, including Northampton’s is on the way!
Food Pantries Serving You
With many Pennsylvanians out of work, our ofﬁce is handling more calls concerning the whereabouts of area food pantries. Therefore, I am listing the locations and hours of the food pantries in our area. Bucks County Housing Group Doylestown Food Pantry 470 Old Dublin Pike Doylestown (215) 345-1492 Wed. 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Thurs. 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Sun. 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. or by appointment Family Service Association of Bucks County 4 Cornerstone Drive Langhorne (215) 781-6602 Hours by appointment YMCA – Country Commons Family Center Food Pantry 3338 Richlieu Rd. Bensalem (215) 639-5853 Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. food by appointment
Credit Union Celebrates Expansion in Bucks County
Rep. Petri joined officials of TruMark Financial Credit Union in cutting the ribbon at its newest branch at 984 Second Street Pike in Richboro. The building is an example of local revitalization.
www.RepPetr i.com today!
Awards & Citations
The following students from the Council Rock School District were recognized for essays they submitted for a contest on Fire Safety in the Home, sponsored by the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters and the school district: Colby Brown, Victoria Rizzo, Ashley Tetreault, Alan Chi, Samantha Brown, Sarah Pulaski, Josh Silverstein, Maddie Freeman, Kosta Petsos, Emily Wilkinson, Miriam van der Spek and Alexa Francisco. Joshua Dziewa of Holland and Jamie Callender of Ivyland placed ﬁrst and second respectively in their weight classes in the 2009-10 PIAA State Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championship. Dziewa also won the Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic and ﬁnished second at the Escape the Rock Wrestling Tournament. Marie Jethon of Holland recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Anthony Gogojewicz of Carversville turned 98 and Dorothy Ryan of Southampton is 90.
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 or achievements.
Service Awards & Recognition
Community service awards were given to the following: Bruce Iacobucci of Holland is the recipient of the Dr. Stanton Kelton Service Award, given by the United Way of Bucks County; Andrew Hudis of Langhorne, a junior at Council Rock High School, was honored by the YWCA of Bucks County; Mary Ryan received the Upper Makeﬁeld Township Volunteer of the Year Award; and Brittany King, a student at Villa Joseph Marie High School, received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, presented by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of President Barack Obama. Scott Shore of Holland was honored by the Feasterville Fire Company for 10 years of distinguished service. Northampton Township Senior Center celebrates 25 years of service to the community and the North and Southampton Reformed Church celebrates its 300th anniversary.
The following attained the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor awarded by the Boy Scouts of America: Thomas Caputi, New Hope; Stephen Zapisek, Richboro; Shawn Speeney, Wrightstown; Joel Rabinowitz, Wrightstown; Andrew Snyder, Penns Park; Ian Shepherd, Richboro; Kenneth Cummings, Richboro; Jeremy Hough, Churchville; Dan Grimes, Ivyland; Patrick Celia, Churchville; Blake DeCarvalho, Ivyland; Sean Soboloski, Ivyland; Vesko Kostic, Richboro; Jacob Noonan, Holland; Joseph Donahue, Churchville; Eric Bressler, Ivyland; Howard Tillotson, Washington Crossing; and Nicholas Doyle, Holland. I am pleased to congratulate Kristin Sargente of Ivyland on receiving the Girls Scout Gold Award, the highest honor awarded by the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Girl Scout Gold Award
Grace Tanner, Ivyland Peter Scheer, Richboro
Rep. Petri held a small business seminar this spring. The seminar was so well received that another is planned for October.
My district office is here to help you. Services my staff and I provide include:
District Office Services
• • • • • •
• Driver’s license and vehicle registration applications and renewals • Assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, special registration plates, vanity plates, and temporary placards for disabled persons) • PACE and PACENET applications for seniors • Property Tax and Rent Rebate applications • Voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications
State tax forms Student aid applications State maps and state park information Copies of legislation Tours of the State Capitol Referrals to agencies to resolve staterelated matters
If you need help with any of the above or with any other state-related matter, please do not hesitate to call.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT A. PETRI
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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