New Year, New Budget.

Pennsylvania is required to pass a budget every year by June 30. That process officially kicks off every year with the Governor’s budget address in early February, identifying the Administration’s budget priorities.

 

Below, I have highlighted some of the areas I believe we should be focusing our resources on in order to best serve Pennsylvanians in District 38 and across the Commonwealth.

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2020-21 Budget Hearings

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10:00 am – Independent Fiscal Office
1:00 pm –  Department of Revenue/Lottery
3:00 pm – Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
1:00 pm – Department of Corrections/Board of Probation and Parole
3:00 pm – Pennsylvania Board of Pardons

Thursday, February 20, 2020

10:00 am – PA State System of Higher Education
1:00 pm – Department of State
3:00 pm – Attorney General

Monday, February 24, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Labor & Industry
1:00 pm – Auditor General
3:00 pm – Department of Aging

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

10:00 am – PA Liquor Control Board
1:00 pm – Department of Transportation
3:00 pm – Pennsylvania Treasury Department

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Human Services
3:00 pm –  Department of Health

Thursday, February 27, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Education
3:00 pm – Department of Community & Economic Development

Monday, March 2, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Agriculture
1:00 pm – University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
3:00 pm – Penn State University Ag. Research & Ag. Extension

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

10:00 am – State-Related Universities
1:00 pm – Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
3:00 pm – Penn College of Technology, Thaddeus Stevens College & Community Colleges

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

10:00 am – Department of Environmental Protection
1:00 pm – PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association
3:00 pm – Budget Secretary/Governor’s Executive Office

Senator Lindsey Williams 2020-21 Budget Address Remarks

Improve Infrastructure

As the heavy rains of the last few years become the new normal, we are seeing more frequent and severe landslides and sinkholes. PennDOT and local municipalities have been forced to divert funding and manpower to emergency repairs. This has further deferred planned maintenance. We need to make significant investments in our physical infrastructure, including bridges, roads, and sewer systems, as well as our utilities, like expanding broadband connection across the state.

I recently sent a letter to Governor Wolf requesting funding in this year’s budget to be earmarked for repairs to Kittanning Pike in O’Hara Township. The current drainage system and aging infrastructure along this road simply cannot withstand flash floods caused by heavy rains, which now happen multiple times a year. You can read the full text of the letter here.

Improve Infrastructure

As the heavy rains of the last few years become the new normal, we are seeing more frequent and severe landslides and sinkholes. PennDOT and local municipalities have been forced to divert funding and manpower to emergency repairs. This has further deferred planned maintenance. We need to make significant investments in our physical infrastructure, including bridges, roads, and sewer systems, as well as our utilities, like expanding broadband connection across the state.

I recently sent a letter to Governor Wolf requesting funding in this year’s budget to be earmarked for repairs to Kittanning Pike in O’Hara Township. The current drainage system and aging infrastructure along this road simply cannot withstand flash floods caused by heavy rains, which now happen multiple times a year. You can read the full text of the letter here.

Protect Taxpayer Dollars

A critical piece of our job as legislators is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. Right now we are not doing enough. We must protect and encourage whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. We can do this by passing the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act along with the budget. The bill is modeled on the federal False Claims Act, which in 2018 alone allowed the federal government to recover $2.8 billion in fraud. Thirty-one states have seen the value in passing their own state False Claims Act and Pennsylvania should too.

Protect Taxpayer Dollars

A critical piece of our job as legislators is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. Right now we are not doing enough. We must protect and encourage whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. We can do this by passing the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act along with the budget. The bill is modeled on the federal False Claims Act, which in 2018 alone allowed the federal government to recover $2.8 billion in fraud. Thirty-one states have seen the value in passing their own state False Claims Act and Pennsylvania should too.

Increase Access to Quality Childcare

Childcare funding is an often overlooked, but key part of the workforce support puzzle. When parents of young children can’t find high-quality, affordable childcare, the parents may either be unable to work or forced choose a lower-quality program. This problem is magnified for single parents who don’t have a partner to share the childcare with and for more rural families who may only have one provider nearby. Studies have repeatedly shown that targeted investment in children from birth to age 5 has a wide range of positive effects on both the individual child and their families, leading to a significant return on our state dollars.

Thirteen of my fellow Democratic Senators and I have requested that Governor Wolf increase the state’s investment in child care to help meet the needs of working families across Pennsylvania. You can read the full text of that letter here.

Increase Access to Quality Childcare

Childcare funding is an often overlooked, but key part of the workforce support puzzle. When parents of young children can’t find high-quality, affordable childcare, the parents may either be unable to work or forced choose a lower-quality program. This problem is magnified for single parents who don’t have a partner to share the childcare with and for more rural families who may only have one provider nearby. Studies have repeatedly shown that targeted investment in children from birth to age 5 has a wide range of positive effects on both the individual child and their families, leading to a significant return on our state dollars.

Thirteen of my fellow Democratic Senators and I have requested that Governor Wolf increase the state’s investment in child care to help meet the needs of working families across Pennsylvania. You can read the full text of that letter here.

Increased Funding for Libraries

Libraries are amazing places. They can host story time for little ones, give students a place to study, offer internet access for adults to find and apply for jobs, and help seniors cultivate a new hobby in their retirement, all at the same time! But they can’t do any of this without funding. In 2003, library operational funding was cut drastically. While we have seen small increases, they haven’t made up for those cuts, meaning that our libraries have essentially been operating at a loss or a flat funding for 17 years.

Increased Funding for Libraries

Libraries are amazing places. They can host story time for little ones, give students a place to study, offer internet access for adults to find and apply for jobs, and help seniors cultivate a new hobby in their retirement, all at the same time! But they can’t do any of this without funding. In 2003, library operational funding was cut drastically. While we have seen small increases, they haven’t made up for those cuts, meaning that our libraries have essentially been operating at a loss or a flat funding for 17 years.

Invest in Our Public Schools

 

Governor Wolf has put great efforts into investing in education throughout his last 5 years in office. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is still one of the worst states in the country for how we invest in public education. A major driver of inequality in our school districts is their reliance on property taxes for funding. By increasing funding from the state, districts could receive a more equitable share of funding distributed through the fair funding formula. We also need to make long overdue changes to the charter school law, especially how we distribute funds to cyber charters and for students who need special education. Together, these changes would help local school districts address rising costs without increasing local property taxes.

Not all students want or need a four-year degree. The state has rigorous  Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that offer students an entire world of new career possibilities in a high school setting where they can try out programs, learn the basics, and discover their passions. Many students will graduate with industry certifications and college credits that will set them on the path toward lucrative careers.

In addition to funding our K-12 education, Pennsylvania also needs to invest in higher education. Currently we rank last in funding for our state institutions, which drives up tuition for students and increases student loan debt. Consequently, many students leave the state to get an education and don’t return—we can’t afford to lose out on the next generation of talented individuals simply because it’s significantly cheaper to get a good education in another state. Our PASSHE schools have so much to offer local students; we need to make sure that they are affordable.

Invest in Our Public Schools

 

Governor Wolf has put great efforts into investing in education throughout his last 5 years in office. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is still one of the worst states in the country for how we invest in public education. A major driver of inequality in our school districts is their reliance on property taxes for funding. By increasing funding from the state, districts could receive a more equitable share of funding distributed through the fair funding formula. We also need to make long overdue changes to the charter school law, especially how we distribute funds to cyber charters and for students who need special education. Together, these changes would help local school districts address rising costs without increasing local property taxes.

Not all students want or need a four-year degree. The state has rigorous  Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that offer students an entire world of new career possibilities in a high school setting where they can try out programs, learn the basics, and discover their passions. Many students will graduate with industry certifications and college credits that will set them on the path toward lucrative careers.

In addition to funding our K-12 education, Pennsylvania also needs to invest in higher education. Currently we rank last in funding for our state institutions, which drives up tuition for students and increases student loan debt. Consequently, many students leave the state to get an education and don’t return—we can’t afford to lose out on the next generation of talented individuals simply because it’s significantly cheaper to get a good education in another state. Our PASSHE schools have so much to offer local students; we need to make sure that they are affordable.

Strengthen Public Safety

Our local emergency services are at a crisis point. Fire departments are facing all-time low membership numbers while fires become increasingly difficult to fight due to the increase of flammable materials in our homes and cars. EMS services also struggle to find qualified staff as stagnant healthcare reimbursements keep EMT wages low or force services to rely on volunteers. We need to raise our reimbursement rates and better fund our emergency services if we want to continue to receive the high-quality, professional assistance that we have come to expect. The majority of these first responders’ time should be spent on the job or in training, not fundraising to keep the doors open.

 

Strengthen Public Safety

Our local emergency services are at a crisis point. Fire departments are facing all-time low membership numbers while fires become increasingly difficult to fight due to the increase of flammable materials in our homes and cars. EMS services also struggle to find qualified staff as stagnant healthcare reimbursements keep EMT wages low or force services to rely on volunteers. We need to raise our reimbursement rates and better fund our emergency services if we want to continue to receive the high-quality, professional assistance that we have come to expect. The majority of these first responders’ time should be spent on the job or in training, not fundraising to keep the doors open.

Increased Wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are caregivers who work with our loved ones every day. Their work is demanding—they are tasked with helping clients with everything from basic every day living tasks like brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and getting dressed in the morning, to providing companionship and support to individuals who wish to remain in their homes or a less-restrictive medical setting. DSPs care for our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. Despite the obvious importance of this work, these jobs tend to be low-paying because of the low rate of reimbursement for their services from Medicaid, Medicare, and other insurance companies. We need increase the reimbursement rate and increase the wages for these positions to reflect the value that we place on helping our loved ones maintain their independence.

Increased Wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are caregivers who work with our loved ones every day. Their work is demanding—they are tasked with helping clients with everything from basic every day living tasks like brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and getting dressed in the morning, to providing companionship and support to individuals who wish to remain in their homes or a less-restrictive medical setting. DSPs care for our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. Despite the obvious importance of this work, these jobs tend to be low-paying because of the low rate of reimbursement for their services from Medicaid, Medicare, and other insurance companies. We need increase the reimbursement rate and increase the wages for these positions to reflect the value that we place on helping our loved ones maintain their independence.

Expand Public Transportation

The need to increase access to public transportation is long overdue. Cuts in funding let to massive line cuts in 2013, many within the 38th District. We need to increase the state’s share of investment in the Port Authority of Allegheny County to reinstate and expand service lines to our residents. It is critical for job growth and quality of life.

Expand Public Transportation

The need to increase access to public transportation is long overdue. Cuts in funding let to massive line cuts in 2013, many within the 38th District. We need to increase the state’s share of investment in the Port Authority of Allegheny County to reinstate and expand service lines to our residents. It is critical for job growth and quality of life.

Protect our Air and Water

Last year’s budget included a $20 million dollar cut to the Department of Environmental Protection. While federal funding and fees helped to offset this number, our Commonwealth must prioritize funding the agency tasked with overseeing that our citizens are breathing clean air and drinking clean water. Investing in the DEP prevents agencies from passing off budget shortfalls onto consumers. Additionally, we are the only state that does not tax the extraction of natural gas. We should pass a reasonable tax and invest that money in infrastructure projects.

Protect our Air and Water

Last year’s budget included a $20 million dollar cut to the Department of Environmental Protection. While federal funding and fees helped to offset this number, our Commonwealth must prioritize funding the agency tasked with overseeing that our citizens are breathing clean air and drinking clean water. Investing in the DEP prevents agencies from passing off budget shortfalls onto consumers. Additionally, we are the only state that does not tax the extraction of natural gas. We should pass a reasonable tax and invest that money in infrastructure projects.

Improve Our Parks

The parks and trails within the 38th District are remarkable – from Aspinwall Riverfront Park, to North Park, to Harrison Hills. Increasing the state’s investment in improving our parks improves the quality of life for our residents and especially for our children.  

Improve Our Parks

The parks and trails within the 38th District are remarkable – from Aspinwall Riverfront Park, to North Park, to Harrison Hills. Increasing the state’s investment in improving our parks improves the quality of life for our residents and especially for our children.  

Protect Seniors from Abuse

Last year, we saw an increase in over $2 million in additional funding for Older Adults Protective Services and we need to maintain that investment. Our seniors must be protected from being exploited by scams, being neglected, or being abandoned.

Protect Seniors from Abuse

Last year, we saw an increase in over $2 million in additional funding for Older Adults Protective Services and we need to maintain that investment. Our seniors must be protected from being exploited by scams, being neglected, or being abandoned.