Friday, January 3, 2020

PA Senate Republicans List 2019 Accomplishments, House Republicans Set Budget Priorities

From Harrisburg Last Week: Topping the list of 2019 accomplishments released last week by Senate Republicans was another no tax increase, limited spending state budget for FY 2019-20. 
Also on the list were increases in grants and loans to businesses for expansions, more funding for career and technical schools and passing the PA Farm Bill to support the state’s number one industry-- agriculture.
Click Here for the entire listClick Here for Senate-passed legislation in 2019, but not necessarily signed into law.
Gov. Wolf covered much the same ground in his own review of 2019, but emphasized climate change, criminal justice and voting reform higher in his list.
Initiatives to promote job growth and worker training were also highlighted last week in a Year In Review report released by the Department of Community and Economic Development.
House Republican Budget Priorities
In a December 31 Tweet, House Republicans listed their FY 2020-21 budget priorities and topping the list was “Replenish the Rainy Day Fund” to help the state bridge over periods of significant financial downturns.
Also on the priority list were--
-- Reining in State Spending
-- More Accountability, More Transparency 
-- Investing for Progress with PA's Priorities 
-- Targeting Dollars To Educate for Success 
The state budget season kicks off February 4 when Gov. Wolf delivers his formal budget address, but between now and then you can expect him to make announcements about upcoming initiatives to build to the main event.
State Revenues Going Off Track
Speaking of budgets, on January 2, the Department of Revenue reported Pennsylvania collected $2.9 billion in General Fund revenue in December, which was $91.5 million, or 3.1 percent, less than anticipated. 
Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $15.6 billion, which is $75 million, or 0.5 percent, above estimate.
In the November revenue report, the Department of Revenue said state revenues were running $333.6 million above estimates for the fiscal year.  Read more here.
Unemployment Ticks Up Slightly
Several regions of the state report this week unemployment in November increased slightly-- Lancaster to 3.5 percent, Pittsburgh to 4.3 percent, Erie to 4.5 percent. The overall statewide unemployment rate was also up slightly to 4.3 percent in November, but the number of people in the workforce was up 18,000 from October. Read more here.
Mental Health Initiative
Gov. Wolf announced a new mental health initiative-- Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters-- designed, he said, to end the stigma for people seeking help with mental health issues.  
Part of the plan would remove barriers for people to get help, another was increases the resources devoted to mental health services primarily implemented by counties and nonprofit groups.  No proposal was made on how these services would be funded. Read more here.
Federal Overtime Change Affects 61,000 In PA
On December 30, Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak reminded employees and businesses about a new federal law that will make 61,000 workers in Pennsylvania newly eligible for overtime pay of time and a half beginning January 1, 2020. 
Gov. Wolf said later in the week he was not abandoning his own plan to require overtime pay for anyone who makes $45,000 or less and works more than 40 hours a week. As part of an end-of-the-year deal with Senate Republicans to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50, Wolf had agreed to hold off on his overtime plan.  Read more here.
Tariffs Cost PA $700 Million
A new report released by the Trade Partnership, a consulting group that analyzes the impact of trade policy, said Pennsylvania’s paide more than $700 million for raw materials and products as a result of increases in federal trade tariffs in 2019.  Read more here.
New Voting Machines All Around
Dauphin County was the last of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to commit to having new voting machines that leave a paper trail in place for the 2020 elections.  The new machines were required as part of a lawsuit settlement. Read more here.
PA To Lose Congressional Seat
Pennsylvania, Ohio and other Midwest and Eastern states are projected to lose Congressional seats as a result of the 2020 U.S. Census.  Estimates are Pennsylvania will lose 1 seat. States gaining seats include North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Montana and Florida.  Read more here.
PA Farm Show Butter Sculpture
And last, but certainly not least, the centerpiece of the 2020 PA Farm Show in Harrisburg was unveiled Thursday-- a 1,000 pound butter sculpture.  
This year's sculpture depicts three of Pennsylvania’s beloved professional sports mascots: Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty, Philadelphia Eagles’ Swoop, and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steely McBeam celebrating with a spread of Pennsylvania dairy products. 
Immediately, fans of other sports teams flooded Twitter asking why their team mascots were not included. Read more here.
What’s Next?
The Senate and House return to Harrisburg January 7 for the ceremonial beginning of the second half of the 2019-20 legislative session.
Regular voting session doesn’t begin until January 13 for the House and January 27 for the Senate.

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