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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of July 27, 2015

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 404 – (45-1) Corrections Officers Bill of Rights;
Senate Bill 430 – expands the Statewide Intermediate Punishment Program to include gambling addiction;
Senate Bill 474 – (33-14) requires majority Senate confirmation of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chief Executive Officer;
Senate Bill 652 – local earned income tax exemption for active-duty military pay;
Senate Bill 683 – (33-14) authorizes the collection of DNA upon arrest for certain crimes (as I believe should be upon conviction only, I was a no);
Senate Bill 765 – expands types of emergency responders during declared disasters;
Senate Bill 925 – CDL permit and license updates.

Bill Passes Senate, Goes to Governor for Further Action
Senate Bill 487 – limits copayments for services provided by a physical therapist, chiropractor or occupational therapist.

Column: “It’s for the Kids”
One of the key differences in the ongoing budget impasse between the Governor and the General Assembly is the issue of education funding.

Thirty-eight percent of the budget vetoed by the Governor would have spent $11,515,925,000 of state moneys in support of education: $31,550,479.45 a day, $1,314,603.31 an hour, $21,910.06 a minute, and $365.17 a second.

When you factor in federal and state tax moneys in support of education, the Commonwealth spends about $27,000,000, 000 to support education: $73,972,602.74 a day, $3,082,191.78 an hour, $51,369.86 a minute, and $856.16 a second.

The Governor wants another $620,000,000 for education. This would be in addition to the $1,300,000,000 needed to close the structural deficit facing this year’s state budget (another $2,000,000,000 will be needed to again balance the Commonwealth’s spending next year).

That’s a lot of zeros representing big numbers. To put them into perspective, consider: if you spent $1 each second, it would take you 12 days to spend $1 Million, 32 years to spend $1 Billion, and 32,000 years to spend $1 Trillion.

The Governor wants total additional spending of over $4.7 Billion above last year’s budget, an increase of more than 16%. To pay for all this spending, he’s proposed increasing taxes by $4.7 Billion this year; $12 Billion over the next two years.

The Governor is pushing to increase the Personal Income Tax by 20% and the Sales Tax 10%. He also wants a severance tax and increases in cigarette taxes and other tobacco products. The Governor also proposes a retroactive increase in the Bank Shares Tax.

Taxpayers have been very generous in fulfilling the obligations of Article III, Section 14 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution: “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

The current system is far from efficient: for each dollar invested in education, just $0.378 goes into classrooms. Most of the money ($0.622) goes to the salaries, healthcare, continuing education, pensions, and other benefits of the adults in education. How many of us would support a charity where just 38% of the moneys collected go to the purpose of the charity while 62% goes for overhead?

Unfortunately, when I cite these realities to some, I often receive rejection of the facts and sometimes even outright hostility. I have been told not helping public education is a slap in the face of those who make up the largest union in the state.

Interestingly, this union’s stated mission is “To advocate for quality public education and our members through collective action” and who’s vision is “To be the preeminent voice for education and the leading force for labor in Pennsylvania.” Their core values are “Being a member-driven organization; Collective action based on core union principles; Dignity and equity for all students and members; Diversity; Integrity in words, actions, and data; Quality professional services by and for members.” In 60 words about education, there’s just one – very brief – mention of students.

To me, education should focus first – and always – on students. However, in the current debate over education funding, students are used mostly to demand more and more money – because: “it’s for the kids.”


Contact Information
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