In this Update:
Firefighter Grant Application Webinars Begin Jan. 8
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program application period is expected to begin Jan. 29 and end March 8. The yearly program helps community fire companies and non-affiliated EMS organizations purchase trucks, vehicles, and gear, and pay for training.
To help fire companies and EMS organizations apply for these grants, the program will conduct application development workshop webinars beginning Monday, Jan. 8. More information about the webinars, including a full schedule, is available here.
I encourage local companies to participate in these webinars, especially considering the program received more than 7,300 applications last year but only about 1,700 were funded.
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day
Tuesday, Jan. 9, is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Protecting our communities is a dangerous and demanding job. The men and women who have selflessly and bravely answered the call to serve are to be commended for the work they do. They are the ones who proudly don their uniforms and say goodbye to their families daily, not knowing if that day will be their last.
As Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, I have focused on advancing legislation to help law enforcement, including being the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 429, which was recently signed into law as Act 60 of 2023. This expands the list of law enforcement entities covered under the Heart and Lung Act, which provides for salary and medical expenses to be paid when an officer or firefighter is injured on the job. The legislature also ensured funds this fiscal year for an additional 100 Pennsylvania State Police troopers to help make our communities safer.
Giving Students the Tools to Succeed
The passage of the 2023-24 state budget reflects important Senate Republican priorities, including helping students by dedicating an additional $567 million to Basic Education and an additional $150 million for education tax credits to provide scholarships to students so they can learn in an education environment that best suits their needs.
We also ensured greater collaboration in keeping children safe in the classroom by consolidating school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The commission already manages the highly successful School Safety and Security Grant Program created by the Senate in 2018.
As mental health needs continue to rise, we allocated $100 million for K-12 mental health programs for schools so children have the basic foundation to succeed educationally.
Helping Pennsylvanians at the Pump
After automatically rising last year due to inflation, the 2024 Pennsylvania gas tax will return to 2022 levels.
Last year, the average wholesale price of gasoline exceeded $2.99 per gallon, which triggered an automatic increase in the gas tax. Knowing how Pennsylvanians were already struggling with skyrocketing inflation, the Senate passed and sent to House of Representatives legislation last January to end these inflation-based, automatic gas tax hikes.
Had the House acted in a timely fashion, Pennsylvanians would have saved more than $200 million in the gas tax. We continue to encourage our counterparts to work cooperatively with us to benefit commonwealth residents as we were elected to do.
Reducing the Tax Burden
As part of the state budget, Senate Republicans voted to reduce the tax burden. One initiative would address a barrier to employment for working families by giving parents additional support to continue to seek and maintain employment.
The legislation also exempts Dependent Care Assistance and Flexible Savings Accounts, which are used to cover health care expenses, from the state Personal Income Tax. They were already exempt from federal taxes.
Finally, it helps counties and municipalities avoid raising taxes on their residents. It increases the payment made for state-owned property dedicated to outdoor recreation to $2.40 per acre to be paid from the State Gaming Fund. Previously, open spaces for the public’s enjoyment were more of a financial burden because they aren’t owned by businesses or individuals.
Officiating Opportunities Available Throughout PA
If you would like to help your community more this year, there are lots of opportunities to make a huge difference in the lives of student-athletes.
There’s a shortage of referees, umpires and other high school officials in almost every sport. High school officials protect the integrity of the games our kids love to play by demonstrating qualities like honesty, objectivity, consistency and courage.
Hours are flexible, and it’s a great way to stay in good physical condition. Find out how to become an official.
Regan Announces 2024 will be Final Year in Senate
This week I announced that after considerable thought and discussions with my family, 2024 will be my final year in the State Senate.
It has been my tremendous honor to serve the great people of the 31st District and the Commonwealth for the past seven years, and I look forward to continuing to do so yet this year.
Know that my staff and I remain available to help constituents navigate state government matters, and I will continue to advocate for issues of importance through the end of my term.
For anyone who hasn’t already signed up to receive my e-newsletters, you can get on the mailing list here.