In this Update:
Mastriano introduces bills to streamline and improve State Government
Harrisburg- Senator Doug Mastriano (PA-33) officially introduced legislation to save taxpayer dollars and streamline government by consolidating elements of existing state agencies and offices.
SB 1089 will merge the Budget Office, Department of General Services, Office of Administration and the Governor’s Office of Policy & Planning to create the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
SB 1090 will merge the Department of Labor & Industry with functions from the Department of Community & Economic Development and the Department of State to establish the Department Business, Tourism and Workforce Development (DBTWD).
The mergers will require the two new agencies to achieve a 20% reduction in administrative costs, improve the delivery of government services, eliminate redundant programs, and improve the use of state funds to reduce costs to taxpayers.
“These mergers are a great start to shrinking our state’s oversized bureaucracy while also improving government services and saving taxpayers dollars, said Senator Mastriano. We can eliminate redundancies, improve coordination, strengthen existing services, and send the message that Pennsylvania is open for business.”
SB 1089 and SB 1090 have been referred to the Intergovernmental Operation Committee.
Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget Get Underway
The Senate Appropriations Committee held the first of four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by FY 2026-27.
The administration’s proposed massive spending increase relies on rosy revenue projections not supported by the Independent Fiscal Office. IFO Director Matthew Knittel testified that revenue projections could be revised downward depending on various factors including the end of the stimulus funding and actions at the federal level.
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity said Treasury sees the potential for sizable deficits in future years that would require tax hikes, new taxes or spending cuts to erase the deficits. She testified the governor’s budget proposal contains wildly low projected spending, particularly in human services, while it builds in unrealistic revenue assumptions.
You can find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.
Additional 100,000 Older Adults Eligible for Prescription Assistance
Legislation approved by the General Assembly in December expanding income eligibility limits for the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) program is now in effect.
The new law allows an additional 100,000 older adults to now become eligible to sign up for the program with enrollment beginning this month. The law expands the PACENET income limits by $6,000:
The PACENET and PACE programs are funded with revenue from the Pennsylvania Lottery and provide comprehensive reimbursement coverage for prescription medications to qualified older Pennsylvanians. The program serves older Pennsylvanians 65 years of age and older, many of whom require multiple medications for several chronic conditions.
You can read more about PACE/PACENET, the latest expansion and the application process here.
Applications Being Accepted for Schools-to-Work Grants
State grants are available to foster partnerships between schools, employers, organizations and associations that lead to career pathways for students. The application deadline is March 15.
Eligible applicants for the Schools-to-Work Program must be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry as a pre-apprenticeship program or connected with a registered apprenticeship program. Other eligible applicants include an entity that has an established connection with a registered apprenticeship program.
Project proposals must create learning opportunities for participating students and should focus on the coordination of people and resources to help individuals on a continuous path to family-sustaining employment and career growth. The proposal must also focus on building pre-apprenticeship programs to fill current and anticipated labor market needs in the given geographical area.
Virtual Veteran Town Hall Series Set for 2022
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has announced five Virtual Veteran Town Halls to provide veterans with a convenient platform to learn and ask questions about programs and benefits earned through their military service.
Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters live during a chat feature. Visit DMVA’s website two weeks prior to each town hall for the link to participate.
Student Art Competition Raises Awareness About Ticks and Lyme Disease
As the number of Lyme disease cases in the state and across the nation continues to rise, students can use their artistic talents to raise awareness of the prevalence of ticks and the types of diseases they carry.
The Lyme Disease Art Contest is open to children in first through sixth grade. Entries must be received by March 11. Contest materials can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website. Finalists will be notified by mail and will be invited to an award ceremony in May.
There are reports of up to 10,000 Lyme disease cases per year in Pennsylvania and more are likely unreported. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a short course of antibiotics. However, if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Ticks that cause Lyme disease are found in every county and every green space, even in cities.