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Kerry A.

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Serving the People of the 171st Legislative District

Dear Neighbor,
This year’s state budget was completed in a timely fashion. That’s the good news. However, there were some missed opportunities in this year’s budget as well. Take a look at the state budget recap article to learn about some of the fiscally responsible alternatives I support. This newsletter contains information about what’s happening in our state Capitol in Harrisburg and the local issues that affect us right here in the 171st Legislative District. From the results of the Rockview land transfer compromise to the ongoing efforts to reform state government, you can read about it all in this update. If there is a state governmentrelated issue that isn’t addressed in this newsletter that you would like to learn about, please feel free to contact one of my district offices. We are here to serve you. On a personal note, I want to thank you for the continued prayers, cards and acts of kindness for my daughter and family. Most sincerely,

Benninghoff Pushing Forward the Reform Agenda
I continue to push forward new ideas to reform the way our Commonwealth and its election processes work. Below are just three of the bills I have introduced in the current legislative session.

Fall 2010

House Bill 740: This election transparency bill would ensure voters know who is sponsoring political robo-calls. Under current law, when an individual or group airs a political television or radio commercial or publishes a print advertisement that directly targets a candidate, these forms of political communication must identify the sponsor. The law currently does not specify whether or not robo-calls – or pre-recorded political phone messages – are subject to this requirement. My bill would close this loophole in the election law. The bill is currently in the Senate. House Bill 886: After the November elections, the General Assembly sometimes convenes in what is known as a “lame duck” session. Representatives and senators who lost their bid for re-election are no longer accountable to the people they represent and can, without repercussions, vote for tax increases and other unpopular legislation. My bill would eliminate these lame duck sessions. House Bill 542: This is another election reform bill intended to bring transparency to the process. This would ensure that voters are provided with more information when they vote to approve or reject a bond measure. In addition to asking voters if they want to approve a borrowing plan, the ballot referendum would have to include information about how much the debt would cost in total. For example, while the state may plan to borrow $900 million for some initiative, with interest over the years, it may cost well over a billion dollars to pay that money back. This bill would make sure voters have access to all the information they need to make an educated decision. These are just a small sample of the bills I am promoting to make state government more transparent and accountable.

Kerry Benninghoff State Representative 171st Legislative District

House Approves Public Pension Reforms
Pension System Reforms
Reduced Multiplier – A multiplier is a percentage rate used to determine pension benefits. The higher the multiplier, the greater the pension benefits and the heavier the burden will be on taxpayers in a defined benefit plan. The multiplier rate for most new hires would be reduced from 2.5 percent to 2 percent, leading to reduced costs for taxpayers. Increased Vesting Periods – The vesting period is the amount of time employees must contribute to their pension before qualifying for guaranteed benefits. The vesting period would be doubled from five years to 10 years for new hires. Increased Retirement Ages – New state workers and teachers will have to work longer before qualifying for full retirement benefits. The House recently approved a public pension reform bill that would fulfill the state’s obligations to current workers and retirees while taking steps to reduce the longterm burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers. The reforms are aimed at two pension systems – one for public school system employees and the other for all remaining state employees. These pension systems are funded primarily through three sources: employee contributions, employer contributions and investment returns. The state makes the employer contribution for the state workers’ pension system. The state and local school districts make the employer contribution for the public school teachers’ pension system. Due to a number of factors, including the recent downturn in the stock market, the state and local school districts are facing a sharp increase in employer contributions to the pension funds in the next few years. The changes included in the House bill would “smooth out” those increases while also implementing pension benefit reforms, resulting in short-term relief and long-term cost reductions for taxpayers. For current workers and retirees in the two pension systems, a promise made will be a promise kept. The House bill would not reduce pension benefits for these workers. In actuality, the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibit making changes to pensions for existing workers and retirees due to contractual law. The House bill also would implement pension reforms for future state workers and teachers. These reforms include increasing the amount of time a teacher or worker must be employed before they are entitled to certain pension benefits. It also increases the amount of time they must serve before they can retire. Together, these reforms stand to address an issue that will undoubtedly have severe fiscal impacts in the future if proper reforms are not implemented. This bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Fast Facts About the Marcellus Shale and Natural Gas
As debate over the development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves heats up, I believe it’s important to provide you with some factual information about this issue that I have learned throughout this process. General facts:  The Marcellus Shale underlies 54 of the 67 counties of Pennsylvania – all but the southeastern and southcentral portions of the state.  In October 2008, Pennsylvania State University professor Terry Engelder estimated that the gas locked in the Marcellus Shale could ultimately yield 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – an amount equal to 13 years of current U.S. natural gas demand.  The first Marcellus well went into production in 2005. Economic impacts:  During 2008, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry in Pennsylvania generated more than 29,000 jobs.  For every $1 million of output created by natural gas production in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale, 6.9 jobs are created.  The Marcellus Shale natural gas industry in Pennsylvania could be generating $13.5 billion in value added and almost 175,000 jobs in 2020.  For every $1 that the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry spends in the state, $1.94 of total economic output is generated.  The sum of the direct, indirect and induced impacts that the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has on Pennsylvania is more than $4.2 billion. Environmental impacts:  Natural gas produces roughly 30 percent lower carbon emissions than oil.  Natural gas use produces fewer greenhouse gases (nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, in particular) than burning oil.  Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest burning. While the Marcellus Shale offers tremendous economic opportunities for workers across our Commonwealth, the development of this resource will place stress on local roads and other infrastructure. Because of this, I believe the state must require a percentage of any tax on natural gas to be designated for continued road and bridge repairs.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline Extended
The deadline to apply for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program for 2009 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2010. Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2009. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities. Eligibility income limits for homeowners are set at the following levels, excluding 50 percent of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits: • • • • $0 to $8,000, maximum $650 rebate (Homeowners and renters) $8,001 to $15,000, maximum $500 rebate (Homeowners and renters) $15,001 to $18,000, maximum $300 rebate (Homeowners only) $18,001 to $35,000, maximum $250 rebate (Homeowners only)

Freedom Isn’t Free - Thank a Veteran! Please remember to honor our veterans on Thursday, November 11, and every other day of the year.

You should make sure to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms are available by contacting my district office or visiting my website.

This year, the Boy Scouts of America is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Boy Scouts are involved in their neighborhoods and are the leaders of tomorrow. On numerous occasions, I have presented House citations to Boy Scouts across the 171st Legislative District, honoring their service to our communities and our country. I wish our local Boy Scouts another 100 years of success.

Rockview Land Transfer Compromise Reached
After years of working to bring together lawmakers from both parties, community groups, Penn State officials, outdoor enthusiasts and local residents, the groups were able to agree on a compromise deal regarding the Rockview land.

w w w. K e r r y B e n n i n g h o f f . c o m

Benefits of the Compromise
    Ensures taxpayers receive fair compensation for the land. Protects the environment. Provides public access for recreational activities. Addresses the major issues raised by the public throughout the process.

Here are the highlights of the compromise: • Penn State acquires 450 acres in exchange for more than $400,000. o The university must establish a conservation easement with the ClearWater Conservancy and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). • Benner Township acquires nearly 25 acres for $1. o The township must establish a conservation easement with the ClearWater Conservancy and DCNR. o The land must be used for passive recreational open space that benefits the public. • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission acquires 140 acres for $19,000. • Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) acquires 1,200 acres for more than $1 million. • PGC will make annual payments in lieu of taxes to Centre County, Benner Township and Bellefonte Area School District.

While no compromise is perfect, this one addressed the major issues identified by each group. In addition, it brought the public into the process of determining the outcome. In short, the compromise was fair and inclusive – just as it should be.

Standing Up for Your ‘Right to Dry’
With recent efforts to encourage Americans to become more energy efficient and use “green” technologies, many Pennsylvanians are turning to an age-old technique to dry their clothes. People concerned about high energy bills are hanging their clothes outside on clotheslines. Unfortunately, some municipalities and homeowners associations are banning this practice, arguing that it is unsightly. With this in mind, I’ve been asked to introduce legislation - House Bill 2158 - in the House that would protect every Pennsylvanian’s ability to use the all-natural power of the sun to dry their clothing. This is a commonsense measure to help families reduce their energy costs, protect the environment and empower Pennsylvanians to be green.

State Budget Recap
I was pleased the state budget was approved in a timely fashion this year. Gov. Ed Rendell signed it into law in early July. While it was signed after the June 30 deadline, this was a vast improvement over previous years, when budget stalemates drug on for months and months. It was nice to see legislative leaders and the governor work together to get a budget done in a reasonable timeframe. While I applaud the timing of the budget, I disagreed with some of the main parts of the spending plan. I believe there were some good proposals from both Republicans and Democrats that should have been included in the final budget. The inclusion of approximately $100 million in Walking Around Money grants (WAMs) - the state version of earmarks - is an outrage at a time when the state made across-the-board cuts to most other programs and services. The state also should not spend the $45 million it plans to use to fund a professional soccer stadium in Chester County. Finally, the budget should not include the $60 million tax credit for Hollywood movie producers. I also agreed with many of the recommendations of Democrat Auditor General Jack Wagner, who pointed out hundreds of millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse in the state’s welfare system. Unfortunately, the budget that was signed into law continues to overspend on a welfare system that underperforms. I believe this was a missed opportunity for true bipartisan, commonsense reform. While there is still some wasteful spending in the overall state budget, I am proud of the fact that the House Republican Caucus has reduced its own spending by millions of dollars over the last several years. We have tightened our financial belt, just as families across the Commonwealth have been forced to do the same during this economic recession. While some of the cost-saving alternatives I supported were not included in the budget, I will continue to push for their adoption in the weeks and months ahead. I’m committed to working with any lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – to enact commonsense spending reforms that save taxpayers money while maintaining the core functions of government. A tough, stagnant economy forces people to use their money more wisely and efficiently. Government should do no less. I firmly believe we can and should work together to find agreement on solutions that serve constituents without further burdening taxpayers. That is what I tried to do in this year’s budget and it’s what I will continue to push for in the future.

Court Decision Opens Detailed Autopsy Records
A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision has opened the door for the media to review detailed autopsy reports put together by county coroners in Pennsylvania. As a former county coroner and a proponent of open government, I believe we must strike a balance between the public’s right to know and a victim’s right to privacy. I believe autopsy records should be viewed through the lens of medical records. While government tracks different trends in diseases and other aspects of medicine, it does not release case-specific information about who has contracted what disease. I also believe the public has a right to know about certain aspects related to crimes. If a killer is on the loose, the public should be told whether the victims were strangled or stabbed to death. The cause of death should be disclosed. But, autopsy reports often contain much more information, especially in the cases of graphic sexual attacks. Knowing the details about exactly what a rapist did to his or her victim often serves little public interest and can cause great emotional distress to the victim’s family members and loved ones. Suffering the loss of a loved one is hard enough without media reports providing the gruesome particulars. While the public’s right to know is important, I think we should each put ourselves in the shoes of the victim’s family members and ask: If it was our son or daughter, would we want the graphic details to be publicized? That was the case I made before the House Judiciary Committee in support of House Bill 109. This measure would ensure the confidentiality of autopsy audiovisual information. The bill is currently in the House Appropriations Committee.

• A clearinghouse for most Pennsylvania state government forms. • Driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals. • Assist individuals with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, and temporary placards for disabled persons). • Copies of birth and death certificates. • PACE and PACENET applications for seniors. • Copies and summaries of state legislation. • Access to most Pennsylvania state tax forms. • Information on hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania. • Assistance with Property Tax/Rent Rebate forms. • Coordinate tours of the State Capitol. • Provide state maps and publications. • Information on unemployment claims.

DISTRICT OFFICES: 140 West High Street Bellefonte, PA 16823 (814) 355-1300 (814) 355-3523 FAX 77 North Main Street, PO Box 592 Reedsville, PA 17084 (717) 667-2319 (717) 667-6025 FAX HARRISBURG OFFICE: 41B East Wing, PO Box 202171 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2171 (717) 783-1918 (717) 260-6528 FAX