Senate approves Argall study to review corrections overtime issue

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HARRISBURG – The Senate gave its approval to study mandatory overtime within the Department of Corrections, according to measure’s prime sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to compile a study within six months to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers. The study is to look at the cost to hire, train and equip new corrections officers versus paying overtime to existing corrections officers.

Argall said that the issue is both a public safety concern as well as a morale problem.

“Mandatory overtime places added physical, mental and emotional strain on corrections officers,” Argall said. “This study should give us a better understanding of why overtime costs continue to soar while the inmate population declines.”

During the recent state budget hearings with the Senate Appropriations Committee, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel noted that overtime costs for the department continues to hover around $90 million annually.

“The Department of Corrections continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of the state budget. I’m hopeful we can work on the overtime issue to ensure corrections officers are not overburdened with excruciating overtime mandates,” Argall said.

The department led all other state agencies in overtime spending from 2010 through 2014.

The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund compared to all state agencies.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is required to have their report completed in six months.

Argall: Beware the governor’s “bait and switch” property tax plan

HARRISBURG – Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) released the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s school property tax proposal: “Eighty-four grassroots taxpayer groups across the state have rallied behind a proposal they designed to eliminate school property taxes by shifting to increases in the income and sales taxes. The growing call to eliminate school property taxes crosses traditional political boundaries and covers every corner of Pennsylvania. “Today, the governor proposed a permanent increase of sales and income taxes for a temporary reduction in school property taxes. In a few years, those property taxes will grow and taxpayers will be left with higher income taxes, higher sales taxes and again, high school property taxes. Needless to say, today’s budget proposal is not a long-term solution for the taxpayers, instead, it is a long-term solution to grow taxes, with no limits on spending. “I don’t believe that the governor’s plan – by far, the largest tax increase ever proposed in state history – is a realistic solution. Instead, we have to address major cost-drivers in state government and completely eliminate the unfair, 1834-model school property tax. Elimination is the key – not some ‘bait and switch’ scheme.”

David Baldinger, Spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, including 84 grassroots groups across the state, added: “Governor Wolf’s property tax relief plan is simply more smoke and mirrors that, in the end, accomplishes nothing. As long as school property taxes are allowed to increase unchecked there is NO ‘relief’ plan that will work. Replacement funding sources like the sales and income tax increase at one-third the rate of increase of the school property taxes; you might see a few years of help but, in the end, the property tax will go right back to where it was before but with the new replacement taxes to pay. This is not a solution to the property tax crisis.”