In this update:
Celebrating Our New Hazleton Office
Rep. Dane Watro and I welcomed a BIG crowd last night at the open house to celebrate our new offices in downtown Hazleton.
I now utilize four offices across this large senate district, serving more than 260,000 people. In Schuylkill County we are located at 1 West Centre Street, Mahanoy City and 100 North Centre Street, Pottsville. In Carbon County, Rep. Doyle Heffley is allowing me to share his office at 204B Bridge Street, Weissport. All of my offices can assist with any state-related issues, including property tax/rent rebates applications and PennDOT issues, providing updates on legislation, and more.
Sharing offices results in major savings to the taxpayer!
85 Charged with Welfare Fraud in 2023
So far in 2023, the Office of the State Inspector General charged 85 individuals with welfare fraud, with the total amount of fraud over $500,000.
I can still remember a time when a Republican Congress and a Democratic President were able to work out a compromise to provide for meaningful welfare reform. I reintroduced a package of bills this year to help ensure that assistance is provided to those who truly need it – not fraudsters or the deceased.
New Grant Key to Lehighton Revitalization
Rep. Doyle Heffley and I assisted Lehighton in acquiring $226,955 in Multimodal Transportation Grant funding to make pedestrian improvements along Stanley Hoffman Blvd. to better connect the waterfront businesses along the Lehigh River to Lehighton’s Downtown. The area has seen a significant increase in traffic lately thanks to the economic growth of the area and the many visitors and residents who bike or walk the D + L Trail or float down the river.
I met with Lehighton Borough Manager Steve Travers and Lehighton Downtown Manager Bambi Elsasser this week about the many revitalization efforts ongoing in the Borough’s downtown. Thank you to Joker’s Wild Gaming Cafe and the Lehighton Outdoor Center for showing us around. I’ll be back soon to ride that section of the trail!
Senate Reviews Proposed State Budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee held the first of three weeks of public hearings about the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a $45.8 billion budget that would increase spending by $1.3 billion. Based on projections, it would nearly wipe out the state’s $5 billion Rainy Day Fund in five years.
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity urged lawmakers to make greater investments in Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund and reduce the structural deficit to improve the state’s credit rating. She testified that the commonwealth has a choice: spend modestly now or face a possible fiscal cliff as federal funds dry up and the Rainy Day Fund is depleted.
Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel confirmed that Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in new energy taxes. Higher electricity costs could be on the horizon if Shapiro advances a carbon tax.
Find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.
Resolution to Investigate Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage Reintroduced
A new resolution to continue the investigation of Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage was introduced by Rep Tim Twardzik, Rep. Jamie Barton, Rep. JoAnne Stehr and Rep. Dane Watro this week.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts began this process last year. If the subcommittee ultimately concludes that Halcovage engaged in impeachable actions, the House could then consider articles of impeachment. If those are approved, the Senate would then be tasked with holding a trial. If two thirds of the Senators vote to convict him, he would then be removed from office.
New Grants for Downtown Hazleton and to Continue the Renovations of its Historic City Hall
I met with Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat and Rep. Dane Watro this week to discuss three state grants just awarded to Hazleton. Per Mayor Cusat, “This funding will help the City of Hazleton to continue to help with the revitalization efforts in the downtown and in the business district.”
$250,000 was awarded for streetscape improvements along Alter Street. Mayor Cusat said the improvements “will continue to breathe new life into that area as more and more businesses look to call Hazleton their home.”
$303,717 was awarded to renovate the second floor of the currently vacant YWCA building at 75 South Church Street, as part of a project to transform it into an early education center and for other purposes.
$518,843 was awarded for improvements to City Hall, a beautiful structure in much need of renovation, first erected in 1912.
Military-Themed License Plates Now Available
Three new military-themed license plates are now available from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT): the Air Medal license plate, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans license plate, and Blue Star Family license plate. For more information, contact any of my local offices.
Downtown Shenandoah Revitalization Supported by State Grant
The future view
The current view
Downtown Shenandoah, Inc.’s longstanding goal of building the Center for Education, Business, and the Arts (CEBA) got closer to becoming a reality when it was just awarded a $1 million state grant.
Once CEBA is complete and open to the public, I have no doubt it will be a shot in the arm for the community, encouraging new employers to make downtown Shenandoah their place of business. I look forward to continuing to work with the Shenandoah community, Rep. Tim Twardzik, and Rep. Dane Watro to make this a reality.
Check the Status of Your Tax Refund
As families struggle with rising costs and inflation, many are anticipating their tax refund. Anyone who would like to check the status of a Pennsylvania Income Tax refund can do so by calling 1-888-PATAXES or clicking here. There is also an opportunity to verify your tax refund to expedite processing.