Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Senatorial District and the State Capitol. If you haven't done so already, please take a moment to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about my legislative priorities issues that may affect you and your family.
Week of July 30, 2018
Column: Justifying Government Growth
I’ve searched both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions and I can’t find it. Where’s it written government must grow each and every year? Why isn’t government expected to live within its means just like people and businesses?
It took 51 Sessions of Congress to pass a $1 Billion budget – the “Billion Dollar Congress” of 1889. The first $1 Trillion federal budget came in 1987. Today, Pennsylvania spends well over $1 Billion on debt service alone.
In 1969, Governor Shafer branded his proposed state budget “The Fiscal Rubicon” in calling for $492 Million in new revenues: “I believe history will not deal kindly with a rich Nation that will not tax itself to cure its own miseries.”
In 1970, spending for a population of 11,800,766 was $357.15 per person. Our current budget will spend $32,714,991,000 to serve a population of 12,823,989, or $2,551.08 per person. Spending increased 614% while population grew by just 9%.
Consider the state budget I opposed my first year in office: $27,160,000,000, a 4.4% increase over the previous year. When I said state government spending was increasing faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay, Governor Rendell declared: “he’s certifiable”.
In 2007, welfare and education represented two-thirds of the budget: medical assistance for nursing facilities, pharmacy services, and managed care; education funding increased 6.2% (to $10.5 Billion), including $5 Billion for basic education (a $167 Million increase).
Spending under the 2007 – 2008 state budget broke down to $74,410,958 a day, $3,100,456 an hour, $51,674 per minute, and $861 each second.
Under the 2018 – 2019 state budget, the Commonwealth will spend $32,714,991,000, a 2.2% increase over last year: $89,630,112 a day, $3,734,588 an hour, $62,243 per minute, and $1,037 per second. Imagine ten $100 bills passing through your hands every second. That’s how much the Commonwealth is spending.
Education is again a focus: $100 Million more for basic education, $25 Million more for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, and $15 Million more for special education. School safety continues to be a priority, with more than $60 Million in new funding for school resource officers, security equipment, and initiatives to help prevent school violence.
From my first year in office until now, the General Fund has increased by over half a billion dollars a year – a 20.45% increase: from $27.1 Billion to $32.7 Billion.
Government grows when the economy is good and government grows when the economy is bad. Meanwhile, people must make ends meet as gas, housing, food, and health care costs rise. Unlike government, people can’t make others give them money. Only government has the power to tax.
That’s why I remain committed to my “Taxpayer Protection Act” to restrict the growth of government by limiting spending to three years’ average change in personal income or the rate of inflation compared to population.
I also co-sponsored legislation to require Zero Based Budgeting to justify each dollar of spending. Agencies should prove the legal need for their actions, quantitatively estimate adverse impacts should these activities be discontinued, and itemize each expenditure.
This year, the General Assembly and the Governor took a step toward “performance based budgeting” to require departments and agencies to justify budget requests for all existing and proposed programs before receiving any funding.
The goal of this new law is to better question how government money is spent and how much is spent. Taxpayers deserve good explanations when government grows and I will continue to fight for answers and accountability.
Constituent Highlight: Jasmine Bucher, Palmyra Musical Director
Congratulations Jasmine Bucher, Palmyra Area High School’s Musical Director, who recently received Honorable Mention for Excellence in Theatre Education from Carnegie Mellon University and the Tony Awards! Jasmine was one of 24 recognized nationally by Judges from the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League, among others. To read more about Jasmine’s accomplishments, check out this Lebanon Daily News article.
DEP Grants Available to PA Farmers, Small Businesses for Pollution Prevention, Energy Efficiency and Natural Resource Protection
The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced $1 million in Small Business Advantage grant funding is available to PA farmers and small businesses for pollution prevention, energy efficiency and natural resource protection projects with the goal of reducing sediment and nutrient loads in our waterways, including planting riparian buffers, installing streambank fencing, and agricultural storm water management projects. Other eligible projects include those that acquire equipment or processes to reduce energy use or pollution, including HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency lighting, solvent recover and waste recycling systems, and auxiliary power units deployed as truck anti-idling technology.
PA-based small business owners with less than 100 full-time employees are eligible, and projects must save the business a minimum of $500 and 25% annually in energy consumption or pollution related expenses. Businesses can apply for 50% matching funds of up to $9,500 to adopt or acquire energy-efficient or pollution prevention equipment or processes. Only costs incurred between July 20, 2018 and June 30, 2019 are eligible.
Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2018-19 funds are exhausted, or April 12, 2019, whichever occurs first. All applications must be submitted through the Commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance website. The complete grant application package, including instructions, is available by visiting the DEP Small Business Ombudsman’s Office website.
Veterans Expo & Job Fair – August 28th in Camp Hill
A Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair will be held on Tuesday, August 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Veterans, active military and their families at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg, 1150 Camp Hill Bypass, Camp Hill. The Expo will connect transitioning and retired Military members with benefits and resources available through local businesses and organizations, including community service providers, healthcare professionals, VA benefits counselors, education/training providers and business startup assistance, as well as businesses covering home improvement, legal services, finance, retirement living and insurance. The Department of Military & Veterans Affairs will also have a Veterans Outreach Van, offering direct access to benefits information, and Barber Styling Institute will offer attendees free haircuts.
The Expo is presented by OLP Events, and sponsored by Dsiabled American Veterans, DMP Solutions, PA State Headquarters VFW, Vibra Health Plan and WHTM abc27. For more information, call (717) 285-1350 or visit www.veteransexpo.com.
Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Bonus Program
The PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is still accepting applications for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit Program, but only until August 31, 2018. The bonus pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For personnel whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm, there is an additional $5,000 available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war may also be eligible for an additional $5,000.
To be eligible for the bonus, a service member must have:
Since 2008, about 9,500 Persian Gulf Conflict veterans have applied for and received a bonus for their war efforts. Individuals who received a bonus or similar compensation from any other state are not eligible. To apply, visit www.persiangulfbonus.pa.gov.
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