Ensuring Accountability for Taxpayers



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Budget Hearings Aim to Ensure Accountability for Taxpayers

On the heels of Gov. Tom Wolf’s introduction of a $34.1 billion state budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year, the House Appropriations Committee launched its annual budget hearings this week.

The hearings are designed to give committee members the opportunity to question state officials about their funding requests and ensure state government is accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars. We will also focus on ensuring the budget supports policies that improve the state’s economic climate and support the creation of private sector jobs.

I took the opportunity to question officials from the Independent Fiscal Office, Department of Revenue and Department of the Labor and Industry about the governor’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 starting July 1, with annual 50-cent increases to bring it to $15 by 2025. While the governor has indicated this will increase tax revenue for the Commonwealth, I believe it would instead lead to a loss of jobs and increased costs for consumers of products and services as businesses increase prices to cover the higher wages.

I also questioned Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell about the governor’s proposal to transfer more than $25 million from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay for general operations of the department, and about the significant fees our Commonwealths pays to both the Susquehanna River Basin and Chesapeake Bay commissions.

Budget hearings will resume the week of Feb. 25 when we are scheduled to hear from agencies such as the departments of Corrections, General Services, Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Transportation, along with the Liquor Control Board and the Gaming Control Board.

A full schedule of the hearing, as well as archived videos of completed hearings, is available here
Visiting Penns Creek Senior Center

Thanks to the folks at Penns Creek Senior Center for welcoming Rep. Lynda Culver and me for a discussion of state and local issues. We really appreciate the feedback as we represent you at the state Capitol.
Need Help with Veterans Benefits?

In appreciation for their service, both the state and federal governments offer a number of benefits and services to our veterans and their family members. If you have questions about or need assistance with obtaining these benefits, several options are available to help you.

Dan Falls, a veterans field service officer with the American Legion, is available at the Mifflinburg office on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the fourth Wednesday of each subsequent month. You need not be a member of the American Legion to obtain this assistance with issues such as compensation, education, pension, health care and death benefits. Appointments are required and may be made by calling the office at 570-966-0052 or 570-837-0052.

Both Union and Snyder counties also have offices of Veterans Affairs to assist you.
  • Union County Office of Veterans Affairs – Union County Government Center, 155 N. 15th St., Lewisburg. The telephone number is 570-524-8677, and the office is available online here.

  • Snyder County Office of Veterans Affairs – Snyder County East Building, 713 Bridge St. Suite 10, Selinsgrove. The telephone number is 570-374-0181, and the office is available online here.
Save for Your Child’s Higher Education

More and more Pennsylvania families looking to plan for their child’s future education are turning to the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program. In fact, in 2018 Pennsylvania families set a record by saving over $585 million through the program.

There are two ways to save: the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) allows families to save for post-secondary education at today’s rate, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) allows families to choose how their contributions are invested from a list of 16 options.

You can use a 529 plan to pay for qualified higher education expenses at most colleges and universities, and many technical and career schools. You may also use the money to pay for tuition expenses up to $10,000 at elementary or secondary public, private, or religious schools. There are no income limits, and anyone can contribute. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends can all help your student pay for education.

Learn more at www.pa529.com.
Deadline Approaching for 2019 Pennsylvania House Scholarships

The deadline to apply for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship is coming up on March 1. Each year this program awards four-year scholarships to two high school seniors preparing for post-secondary education. The program is open to graduating high school seniors who are Pennsylvania residents with plans to attend a Pennsylvania college, university or career school as a full-time student.

Students must have attained a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average in high school in order to be eligible for a scholarship. Other factors taken into consideration for the awards are a student’s commitment to community, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities and financial need.

The application is available here. The scholarship is privately funded by individual and corporate donors; no tax or other public funds are used. It is administered through the Foundation for Enhancing Communities.
Take Steps to Avoid Scams This Tax Season

As tax season begins, it is important to protect yourself and your family from scams and phishing schemes designed to steal your money or personal financial information.

One common scam to keep an eye out for involves phony “Final Demand for Payment” notices threatening the seizure of a taxpayer’s property if the recipient of the notice fails to make immediate payment. Pennsylvanians should also beware of phishing schemes that use fraudulent email messages, deceptive software or malicious files that are designed to steal sensitive information, such as passwords, usernames or personal financial information.

To avoid these scams, individuals should not provide any personal information until they are sure they are speaking to a legitimate representative. They also should keep an eye out for vague communications and never click on suspicious links or attachments.

Also, if you are asked to pay off debt with reloadable debit cards, gift cards or money wiring services, these are scams. No government agencies use these methods for payment.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax return was filed using your identity, contact the Department of Revenue’s Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov.
Check Out These Upcoming Events!!

Lewisburg Children's Museum Upcoming Programs and Events: STEM lessons with the Bucknell Chemistry Club (Feb. 16); learn about presidents (Feb. 18); build a bird feeder (Feb. 23); and celebrate engineer week (Feb. 24). Please note: fees and registration requirements apply to some of these events. Click here for additional information
PennDOT Offices Closed for Presidents Day

In observance of Presidents Day, all PennDOT driver license and photo centers, including the full-service center in Harrisburg, will be closed Saturday, Feb. 16, through Monday, Feb. 18. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.
What’s Happening in the PA General Assembly?

If you want to know more about what’s happening in your state government, look no further than the Pennsylvania General Assembly website. You will find information about upcoming committee meetings, specific bills, roll call votes, House and Senate calendars, existing state statutes and more. You can even watch session live through the site. Check it out here!
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Mifflinburg Government Center, 343 Chestnut Street, Suite 1, Mifflinburg, PA 17844 | (570) 966-0052 or (570) 837-0052
Room 141-A East Wing, PO Box 202085, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2085 | (717) 787-3443
TTY: 855-282-0614