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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 August 1, 2016

Reminder: Middletown Borough, Dauphin County, Town Hall Meeting
6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 4: Middletown Borough, Dauphin County

MCSO Building: 60 West Emaus Street, Middletown, PA 17057
Hope to see you there! And, thanks to everyone who attended my previous Town Hall Meetings! I enjoyed our discussions and the opportunity to meet with constituents.

Bills Signed into Law by Governor
Senate Bill 514 – Act 95 – allows biosimilar substitutions under the Generic Equivalent Drug Law;
Senate Bill 533 – Act 96 – implements a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband by probation and parole agencies;
Senate Bill 648 – Act 97 – establishes separate snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle funds;
Senate Bill 1221 – Act 99 – changes the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority;
Senate Bill 1227 – Act 100 – transfers pension calculation responsibilities of PERC to the IFO and Auditor General;
Senate Bill 1267 – Act 101 – allows for traffic signal management and enforcement under PennDOT’s Green Light-Go;
House Bill 59 – Act 87 – requires hospitals, health care facilities and physician’s offices to offer Hepatitis C testing to those born between 1945-65;
House Bill 325 – Act 88 – clarifies and updates the Auctioneer Licensing and Trader Assistant Registration Act, and eliminates the Auction House License;
House Bill 806 – Act 89 – amends Clean and Green to prohibit assessments higher than fair market value;
House Bill 871 – Act 91 – provides for de-titling of vehicles recycled by a scrap metal processor;
House Bill 967 – Act 92 – legalizes, for research purposes, the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp;
House Bill 1167 – Act 93 – requires the PA Department of Revenue to apply state tax refunds against outstanding restitution.

Congratulations to Nate Heindel, PennDOT LTAP Roads Scholar Recipient
Congratulations to Nate Heindel, East Manchester Township, York County, for his recent certification as a Roads Scholar! The Roads Scholar Program, offered by the PennDOT Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), provides an opportunity for municipal employees to be trained by LTAP in the latest road-related maintenance and safety technologies and innovations. The program provides professional certification to municipal employees and officials who attend 10 LTAP workshops within a three-year period.

Veterans’ Expo and Job Fair, August 25 in Camp Hill
Veterans of all ages, active military, and their families are invited to the Veterans’ Expo and Job Fair, a free event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, August 25 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg, 1150 Camp Hill Bypass, Camp Hill. Exhibitors will include community service providers, healthcare professionals, VA benefits counselors, education/training providers, and business startup assistance, as well as businesses from home improvement, legal services, and finance, to retirement living and insurance. A photographer will also be taking free, professional headshots for use in social media profiles. For more information on the Veterans Expo and Job Fair, call (717) 285-1350, or visit www.veteransexpo.com.

Google’s Economic Impact in Pennsylvania
Google helped provide $4.51 Billion in economic activity for Pennsylvania businesses, website publishers and non-profits in 2015 (an increase of $1.18 Billion from 2014). $11.3 Million of free advertising was provided to Pennsylvania non-profits through the Google Ad Grants program (an increase of $4.75 Million from 2014). More than 400 Pennsylvanians are employed full-time by Google, which has offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. For more information, visit www.google.com/economicimpact.

Column: “Tax the Guy Behind the Tree”
Russell Long, US Senator from 1948 to 1987, once described tax reform as: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree.”

Senator Long’s comment wasn’t unique. In the 1830’s, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and made observations in his “Democracy in America” – including our country’s tendencies to make large expenditures of public moneys using other people’s money: “. . . the government of the democracy is the only one under which the power that votes the taxes escapes the payment of them.”

Remarkably, this still applies in the 21st Century and was part of the deliberations on the 2016-2017 state budget, which will spend $31,533,732,000 or $86,393,786.30 a day, $3,599,741.10 an hour, $59,995.69 a minute, and $999.93 every second.

However, as these expenditures exceeded estimated revenues by approximately $1,350,000,000, either lower spending or additional revenues were needed to balance the budget. While I advocated for less spending (especially borrowing, which now accounts for 4% of total Commonwealth spending, mandated budget costs accounted for $860,000,000 (61%) of the increased spending and includes: pensions, human services, prisons, and Medicaid.

With Pennsylvania’s public pension systems losing $10 Million a day and $3 Billion a year, I fought hard to address these financial woes, which was caused by many factors, including previous underfunding of the pension systems and financial investments that fell far short of expectations: 0.4% rather than the predicted 7.25%.

With combined liabilities now exceeding $60,000,000,000, it would take 60 years to address this sea of red ink with new revenues alone. When Governor Wolf came into office, he estimated a Marcellus Shale tax would generate $1 Billion. With the slowdown in that industry, additional revenue estimates are now less than $100 Million.

Still, there were a multitude of ideas to balance the budget by raising additional moneys beyond Marcellus Shale, including: Personal Income Tax and/or Sales Tax increases, higher cigarette and other tobacco taxes, more gambling, and increased taxes on banks and/or cable services.

I’m not able to support increased taxes without concerted efforts to cut expenses. Until we truly address mandated budget costs, we’ll continue to look at taxes.

The following new revenues were ultimately approved to balance this year’s budget:
$1 increase in cigarette and other tobacco taxes: $495.7 Million
Tax Amnesty: $100 Million
Cap of Sales Tax vendors’ discount: $55.5 Million
Digital downloads: $46.9 Million
Bank Shares: $23.5 Million
PIT on lottery winnings: $15.8 Million

Positions on the tax changes largely reflected Senator Long’s and de Tocqueville’s sentiments: those who call for higher taxes generally aren’t the ones who will pay them.

Some things never change.

PA PUC “Smart Hearings” for 717 Area Code Relief Plan Scheduled
The PA Public Utility Commission will hold two “Smart Hearings” on August 9 (1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) to gather public comment on plans to address the predicted exhaustion of telephone numbers in the 717 area code service area. The hearings will be live on the PUC website and will enable residents throughout the 717 area code region (16 counties in Central PA) to see and hear testimony. Testimony can be submitted by telephone by contacting the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge at (717) 787-1399 no later than August 2. In-person testimony requires no prior action, simply show up and sign in.

In March 2016, the Commission voted to seek comments on a petition filed by Neustar Inc., the North American Numbering Plan Administrator. Neustar, acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania telecommunications industry, is requesting approval of its plan to alleviate numbering exhausted for the 717 Numbering Plan Area. The area is currently predicted to exhaust its supply of telephone numbers in 2018.

The industry’s recommended solution is to “overlay” a new area code throughout the existing 717 area code, which would require all customers to dial 10 digits for every call. An alternative would be to geographically “split” the current 717 area code, which would require approximately half of the region’s residents and businesses to receive a new area code.

The Commission is seeking comments on the alternatives that have been submitted, and also is open to suggestions regarding any other potential alternatives for providing relief to the 717 area code. Additionally, the Commission also is seeking comments on the implementation schedule for any proposed area code relief plan.

Dauphin and York County Town Hall Meetings
I’m excited to have town hall meetings scheduled throughout Dauphin and York Counties in July and August. Below is the schedule of confirmed meetings and locations. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 4: Middletown Borough, Dauphin County
– MCSO Building, 60 West Emaus Street, Middletown, PA 17057
Tuesday, August 9: Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Township Building, 599 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA 17111
Thursday, August 11: Mount Wolf, York County – Northeastern Middle School Auditorium, 4855 Board Road, Mount Wolf, PA 17347
Monday, August 29: Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Lower Swatara Fire Hall, 1350 Fulling Mill Road, Middletown, PA 17057
Suggestions for locations in the 48th Senatorial District to host a town hall meeting can be sent to fbinner@pasen.gov. Please note, I use no taxpayer dollars to hold these meetings!


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.

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