In this email update:
School property tax elimination not a priority for Department of Education
Much to my disappointment, and to many others who tuned in to Tuesday’s state budget hearing with the Department of Education, Secretary Rivera stated that school property tax elimination is not a priority for the Department of Education.
During the budget hearing, I asked Secretary Rivera whether the governor has plans to provide any new alternatives to school property tax elimination efforts or help proponents in the Senate obtain enough votes to move forward with this initiative. Secretary Rivera declined to speak on behalf of the governor.
I noted to the Secretary that since the approval of the November 7 ballot referendum (which the governor opposed), we now have several more options in the Senate to move school property tax elimination forward that we did not possess before the election.
We desperately need to find a solution that will better fund our public schools, rather than continue to use this archaic system that dates back to the 1700s. I am very disappointed that the governor made no mention of property taxes in his state budget address, nor did the Secretary of Education in nine pages of testimony at this hearing.
Watch my comments to the Secretary here.
Despite the lack of support from the Department of Education and the Wolf Administration, my key allies in the Senate and House are not giving up on this issue! You can read more about our school property tax elimination efforts from the Republican Herald here or from ABC 27 News here.
Looking for new ways to breathe new life into old towns
Community development is critical to rebuilding our distressed towns and cities. Pennsylvania has struggling towns and cities, large and small, across the state. Since the 1950s, many of our smaller communities and our mid-sized cities, such as Reading and Pottsville, have faced very difficult challenges.
A federal initiative called the Opportunity Zones Program will help generate long-term revenue for rural and urban low-income communities across the country by utilizing tax incentives to foster private investment.
Several communities in Berks and Schuylkill Counties are eligible for this program if the governor authorizes this.
The Opportunity Zones Program was enacted by Congress in December 2017 as part of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This bipartisan initiative gained almost 100 co-sponsors.
The goal of this program is to help economically disadvantaged communities grow through the collaboration between public and private sectors.
During this week’s state budget hearing with DCED, Secretary Davin informed me that Pennsylvania will be participating in this program.
The criteria for which zones/communities will be chosen by the governor and presented to the U.S. Treasury are still to be determined. The deadline is March 22, 2018, however, Pennsylvania is seeking an extension on this date.
One of the key components Secretary Davin noted when looking at which communities would benefit from this program is to examine their potential for capital gains. Specifically, what areas will businesses want to invest where they can maximize their capital gains.
Watch the full discussion here.
Modernizing our technology systems to combat welfare fraud
My main focus during Monday’s budget hearing with the Department of Revenue was to see whether or not the department has modernized its computer systems in order to strengthen data sharing capabilities with other state agencies.
Specifically, I inquired whether they had updated their personal income tax system so they could share their information with the Department of Human Services in order to combat welfare fraud.
I gave the Secretary a prime example of how welfare fraud can occur when there is a lack of communication between state agencies. For example, if a welfare recipient misreports their income on their tax forms (which is submitted through the Department of Revenue) without the agencies being able to cross-check information with one another, a welfare recipient is able to rig the system.
Watch our discussion here.
Promoting our local manufacturing industry
On Tuesday evening, I was invited as a guest speaker at the What’s Cool About Manufacturing? program event in Reading.
The What’s Cool About Manufacturing? program recognizes students from 29 middle schools in Berks and Schuylkill Counties who have created videos raising awareness about the importance of our local manufacturing industry and the career opportunities that are available in the industry.
Below are some excerpts from my speech to these students:
Why is manufacturing so important?
Do any of you like to eat?
Do any of you like to spend money?
It’s incredibly important to our local economy – where do you hope to live, to work?
A strong manufacturing sector provides very important answers to those questions.
I am proud to say that Berks and Schuylkill Counties are home to several leading manufacturing companies that have created thousands of family sustaining jobs and technical training programs that have enabled individuals to jumpstart their careers in manufacturing and create a strong workforce right here in our area.
Kudos to these students and their advisors for all of their hard work and commitment to promoting our local manufacturing industry!
Read more about the event from the Reading Eagle here.
Unclaimed property returning at historic rate
An historic $254 million in unclaimed property was returned to its rightful owners during 2017 according to the Pennsylvania Treasury.
In fact, the agency saw a 34 percent increase in returned property between 2016 and 2017 and is encouraging everyone to search the Bureau of Unclaimed Property website. Those unable to access the website may contact the Bureau at 800-222-2046 to begin their search.
Uncashed checks join forgotten bank and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and stocks as intangible unclaimed property. Abandoned safe deposit boxes and police evidence are considered tangible property as are items from institutions, such as colleges, hospitals, and nursing homes. Complete and mail your claim forms to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property, P.O. Box 1837, Harrisburg, PA 17105-1837.
Breaking the bonds of cabin fever
Choose from ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, sledding, tobogganing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing to break the bonds of your bout of cabin fever.
Pick an activity, then select a location; whether an old favorite or a new destination, Pennsylvania can help you get in motion this winter.
Get out of the house and slip indoors to enjoy a warm museum or maybe a steamy hot tub at a spa. When eager for a little more action, give an indoor water park a whirl with wave pools and America’s longest uphill water coaster.
Reducing junk mail
When the paper shredder is full and the junk mail continues, it may be time to cut down on unsolicited mail.
Preapproved or prescreened offers of credit and insurance frequently add unwanted clutter among the important bills and personal correspondence filling your mailbox.
You may opt-out of receiving those unwanted offers for a five year period by calling 1-888-567-8688 or by opting out online. If you prefer, complete the permanent opt-out election form, sign, and return it to the provided address. Removing your name from these lists does not affect your ability to apply for or obtain credit or insurance in the future.
Reduce unsolicited national advertising mail through the Data and Marketing Association. Complete and return the DMA Choice Form to DMA Choice at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, New York, 10512.
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