Tuesday, February 19 | 1:00 p.m.
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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel about:
- Growing concerns about the national economic outlook and how that slowdown could impact PA.
- Special funds that function outside of the state budget and what happens when reserves are built up.
- What Pennsylvania is doing in terms of tax policies to attract and retain businesses and create new jobs.
- The effect of using newly implemented performance-based budgeting.
- The impact of a minimum wage increase on first-time job holders, including high school and college students.
- The impact of public policy decisions on population demographics and economic development.
- How new video gaming terminals will affect lottery sales.
- How changes in federal tax law has impacted state programs.
Tuesday, February 19 | 3:00 p.m.
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The Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the following issue with Public Utility Commission Chair Gladys Brown and commissioners:
- Assessment fees on the regulated utilities, which funds the PUC.
- The ongoing need for reliable broadband in rural areas.
- Outdated regulations on telecommunication carriers of last resort.
- Nuclear energy, and the effect of not including nuclear energy in state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.
- Steps being taken to ensure the safety of communities located near natural gas pipelines.
- The high cost of renewable energy and how making energy more expensive would make Pennsylvania businesses less competitive and cost local jobs.
- What the PUC can do for the estimated 11 million PA residents without access to high-speed internet.
- Increasing the number of gas pipeline safety inspectors.
- The collection and dispersal of natural gas impact fees, and the installation of utility “smart meters.”
- The cost of the PUC taking over the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the response by customers.
- The level of investment by gas companies in upgrading pipelines delivering gas to homes.
Tuesday, February 19 | 10:00 a.m.
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The Senate Appropriations Committee opened its three-weeks of hearings on the Governor’s proposed 2019-20 budget with a session with state Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. Topics discussed during the hearing include:
- Cost savings from the Revenue Department’s technology modernization project.
- The Governor’s proposed combined reporting requirement for businesses.
- Public confidence in the lottery system.
- Taxation of craft brewers.
- Request for Proposals (RFPs) for I-lottery and scratch-off games.
- The state’s vendor for lottery printing services missing deadlines for products.
- Income limits for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program.
- Job losses from the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage.
- Tax collection from online sales
- Advertising costs for lottery scratch-off tickets.
- Minimum salary of $45,000 for teachers.
- The impact of federal tax changes on the PA 592 and ABLE programs.
- Taxes on marijuana.
- Pennsylvania’s tax credit programs
- Changes in the enhanced revenue account since it was set up.
- The feasibility of economic development incentives, such as tax credits, that are revenue-neutral.
- Updates to the tax code and keeping it current with the modern economy.
Wednesday, February 20 | 10:00 a.m.
The committee discussed the following topics with Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar:
- The Administration’s mandate that counties replace voting machines, reimbursement to counties, and the makeup of the group advising the department on the issue.
- Changes to the state licensing system aimed at decreasing processing times, and help for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
- The possibility of providing voters with post-vote verification at the polls.
- The need to make the lobbying disclosure process fully-funded by fees paid by lobbyists, and eliminate the use General Fund tax dollars.
- Background checks for former inmates seeking a state barber license and the need to provide access to jobs to reduce recidivism.
- The need to review the state Election Code for updates and improvements.