Senator Argall E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • Myths and Realities in the Governor’s Proposed Budget
  • ScoutReach Program Teaches Valuable Life Lessons in Hazleton
  • Banning Russia from Receiving Pennsylvania Tax Dollars
  • Best Wishes to Ashland Fire Chief Phil Groody!
  • Argall Report: Hazleton Area High School Honored by Special Olympics
  • Welfare Fraud Costs Pennsylvania Millions in 2023
  • Celebrating “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Myths and Realities in the Governor’s Proposed Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee continued holding public hearings reviewing Governor Shapiro’s $48.3 billion proposed budget this week, which would increase state spending by a massive margin of $3.2 billion (7.1%).

I agree that we need to do more to help our school students, but we need to be VERY careful. If we were to agree to all of his plans, it will be impossible to balance future budgets without deep spending cuts and massive tax increases.

Carl Marrara, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, described it this way: “It’s as if the governor is maxing-out the home renovation budget by remodeling the kitchen with new granite countertops and luxury appliances while ignoring the leaking roof and crumbling foundation.”

As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, I led the questioning of Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin on Wednesday.

I made it very clear that I was prepared to vote NO on any report from the Basic Education Funding Commission that didn’t call for real, significant, property tax relief. 

As the governor calls for billions of additional dollars in funding for our schools, we need to ask ourselves: How can Pennsylvania taxpayers – already overburdened by our unfair, 1834 system – afford to pay any additional property taxes?

Nicole Castillo, who works as an intern in my Hazleton Office, recently graduated from high school WITH a two-year degree from Lackawanna College thanks to a dual enrollment program offered at Hazleton Area High School.

I asked Secretary Mumin what we can do to encourage more students to take advantage of the incredible opportunities provided by dual enrollment programs.

The Shapiro Administration published a “blueprint” this week about the governor’s new plan to combine the ten schools in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges under a new structure.

In Pottsville, they might say this blueprint is more foam than beer. Despite a significant funding request, we still have not seen what the governor’s plan would actually look like for the students, faculty, and communities it will impact.

I asked Secretary Mumin when the Senate Education Committee will see actual legislation to create this new higher education system. His response: stay tuned!

I asked for an update on Pennsylvania’s efforts to encourage more people to pursue the career of teaching.

Parts of the state are grappling with severe shortages in educators. If we don’t address this issue, we’re failing to prepare the next generation of Pennsylvanians for their careers.

ScoutReach Program Teaches Valuable Life Lessons in Hazleton

Rep. Dane Watro and I visited the Hazleton Integration Project this week to meet with the boys and girls in the ScoutReach program. They were celebrating the completion of their first eight-week session and the Dominican Republic’s Independence Day.

ScoutReach serves as an introduction to scouting, giving kids the chance to participate in team building exercises, community service, and more.

I shared with the group how my Scouting experience greatly broadened my horizons, allowing me to hike and camp in Canada, New Mexico, Bavaria, and in my own Tamaqua backyard. For me, my brother, my son, and thousands of local Scouts, it really made all the difference!

Here’s a trivia question:  How many of you can identify me or my friends from this photo of Tamaqua’s Troop 76 five decades ago? It remains on my desk at home as a constant reminder of how important scouting has been to so many of us.

Banning Russia from Receiving Pennsylvania Tax Dollars

A new law I sponsored has taken effect that bans companies connected to the governments of Russia and Belarus from receiving state contracts, grants, or tax credits.

I’ve heard one thing loud and clear from our many Ukrainian-American neighbors in Schuylkill, Carbon, and Luzerne Counties: our state tax dollars should not support Russian war crimes.

According to a recent article from the Delaware Valley Journal, Eugene Luciw, the president of the Philadelphia branch of the Congress Committee of America, stated that, “the Ukrainian American community thanks and salutes Pennsylvania for its steadfast, consistent, and persistent support of Ukraine and her people.”

Best Wishes to Ashland Fire Chief Phil Groody!

Photo by Hyun Soo Lee/Staff for the Republican Herald

Chief Phil Groody, who is retiring after many years of service as the fire chief in Ashland, was “roasted” last weekend by his friends and family at a dinner honoring his impact on the community.

Rep. Tim Twardzik and I presented Chief Groody with official Senate and House citations in recognition of his more than 50 years of service. All three Schuylkill County Commissioners, Larry Padora, Boots Hetherington, and Gary Hess, also attended to celebrate.

Argall Report: Hazleton Area High School Honored by Special Olympics

The March edition of my monthly tv program focuses on a recent ceremony at Hazleton Area High School that celebrated its recognition as a National Banner Unified Champion School by the Special Olympics.

Some events are so important that they require you to clear your schedule. We should all be proud of Hazleton Area High School’s efforts to provide opportunities for ALL students.

National Banner Unified Champion Schools are chosen based on ten criteria focused on providing opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to participate in sports, clubs, and other activities with their classmates without disabilities.

Welfare Fraud Costs Pennsylvania Millions in 2023

In 2023, over 590 people were charged with welfare fraud in Pennsylvania, with the amount of fraud totaling almost $3.4 million.

To curb these instances in the future, the Senate passed three bills I introduced to protect the taxpayer dollars we provided our public assistance programs last year. These bills will ensure that taxpayer dollars are going to those in genuine need, not to bad actors trying to game the system.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has not yet considered them.

Celebrating “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Sunday, March 3, is National Anthem Day. “The Star-Spangled Banner” shares a message of endurance and perseverance. Francis Scott Key originally wrote his poem during a naval attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. That battle was nearly lost.

It wasn’t until March 3, 1931, that President Herbert Hoover signed a law officially making “The Star-Spangled Banner” our country’s national anthem.

Rather than commemorating victory, our national anthem highlights our ability to withstand attack. Today, we continue to raise our flag and refuse to be defeated.


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