In this Update:
Massive Spending Increase in Shapiro’s Budget Creates Concern
This week, Gov. Josh Shapiro shared his proposed 2024-25 state budget, which includes an excessive $3.2 billion increase – a jump of 7.1% – in state spending.
In addition to making it extremely difficult to balance future budgets, the governor’s spending plan would completely eliminate the state’s current and future budgetary reserves in the next five years. Unrealistic spending and revenue projections mean the governor’s budget plan will likely require deep spending cuts and painful broad-based tax increases on Pennsylvanians much sooner – within 2-3 years.
Shapiro’s budget approach, which would likely result in higher inflation when families are already struggling, runs in opposition to the cautious and responsible budgets Senate Republicans have fought to enact. In the next several months, Senate Republicans will examine Shapiro’s budget proposal and search for greater efficiencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its series of budget hearings to study the budget proposal on Feb. 20.
My response to the budget along with other Senate Republican leaders is available here.
Senate Passes Measure Supporting a More Secure Southern Border
As the unprecedented rise in illegal immigration strains the resources of states throughout the nation, the Senate approved a measure calling for action to address the border crisis and support the rights of states to protect their citizens.
Senate Resolution 234 voices support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s actions to secure the border amid federal inaction by the Biden Administration. It also encourages Gov. Josh Shapiro to join dozens of other governors from across the country who have announced their support of Abbott. The Biden Administration continues to fight Abbott’s lawful exercise of his Constitutional authority to defend his state and its citizens.
According to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, the country’s illegal immigrant population grew to 12.8 million by October 2023. It rose 2.6 million since January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office and used executive orders to move financial resources away from the border, suspend deportations and end the successful “Remain in Mexico” policy.
My remarks on the resolution are available here.
Senate Hearing on Office of Administration Data Loss
This week, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on the recent Shapiro Office of Administration (OA) server data loss.
According to the OA, human error from an employee performing server maintenance on Jan. 3 resulted in data loss affecting several agencies. Additional information requested at the hearing will be reviewed once received by the committees. Video of the hearing can be found here.
2023 Accomplishments: Cutting Red Tape
As 2024 gets into full swing, Senate Republicans will continue our work to cut red tape and improve the experience citizens have when they interact with their government and the agencies intended to help them.
Already this session, we have passed a bill that would improve government efficiency by authorizing the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to return unclaimed property without requiring the owners to search for it. Another legislative measure would ensure Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Medical Assistance benefits are not spent on the deceased.
For the Pennsylvanians who must apply for a permit, license or certification, another bill would require state agencies to create an accessible website to explain why a permit application was rejected and enable permit applicants to check their application status. It would also deem a permit, license or certification approved if the agency reviewing the application misses its deadline – giving Pennsylvanians far more predictability than they currently have. This change would also help to attract more business to the state and boost our economy by addressing unreasonable permit delays.
Property Tax Relief is Available for Homeowners
Most homes and farms are eligible for property tax reduction under the Homestead Tax Exemption program.
Under a homestead or farmstead property tax exclusion, the assessed value of each homestead or farmstead is reduced by the same amount before the property tax is computed.
To receive school property tax relief for tax years beginning July 1 or Jan. 1, an application for homestead or farmstead exclusions must be filed by the preceding March 1. School districts are required to notify homeowners by Dec. 31 of each year if their property is not approved for the homestead or farmstead exclusion or if their approval is due to expire. Learn more and find an application.
Public Comment Regarding PPL Settlement Open Now
In late 2022 and early 2023, PPL customers experienced unusually high or low estimated bills, missing monthly bills and inadequate customer service support resulting in customers’ inability to reach PPL Call Center representatives to discuss their billing concerns.
To address those issues, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will evaluate and consider a joint settlement. As part of the evaluation, a public comment period regarding the proposed settlement is active through Feb. 28.
Customers may submit a comment by e-filing through the PUC or sending a written comment at the address below. All comments should reference the docket number of the case: M-2023-3038060.
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