In this Update:
Excessive Spending, School Safety Cut in Governor’s Budget Proposal
This week, Gov. Josh Shapiro presented his proposed 2024-25 state budget, which includes an excessive $3.2 billion increase – a jump of 7.1% – in state spending.
The governor’s spending plan would eliminate the state’s current and future budgetary reserves in the next five years, which will likely require deep spending cuts and painful broad-based tax increases on Pennsylvanians.
Be sure to watch the above video and click here to read the statement I issued following the governor’s budget address. I am deeply concerned that while he calls for radical spending increases, Governor Shapiro is proposing to slash school safety funding by half. Protecting our kids must be a top priority.
The next step in the budget process is for the Senate Appropriations Committee to hold a series of budget hearings with state departments and agencies, beginning on Feb. 20. All of these will be livestreamed, and the schedule is available here.
Regan Questions Loss of PSP Data at Hearing with Office of Administration
This week, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on the recent deletion of data from state servers by the Office of Administration (OA) and the subsequent actions they took following the incident.
According to the OA, human error from an employee performing server maintenance on Jan. 3 resulted in data loss affecting both the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and the State Employee Retirement System (SERS).
As Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which has oversight of PSP, I was invited to participate in the hearing. During my line of questioning I was able to get OA to confirm PSP had limited access to the data and no ability to delete it. This was strictly an OA error – both the deletion of data and the inability to retrieve it, but PSP is now having to spend time and money rebuilding the lost information.
We will continue pressing for more details, and I have requested another hearing so that we can receive testimony directly from PSP on the impact this has had on them.
Video of this week’s hearing can be found here.
Law and Justice Committee Advances, Senate Confirms PLCB Nominee
On Wednesday morning, the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which I chair, held a confirmation hearing and advanced the nomination of Darrell Clarke as a member of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). Wednesday afternoon, the full Senate voted to support his nomination.
Mr. Clarke spent the last 25 years serving on Philadelphia’s City Council, serving as the Council President from 2011 until his retirement this year. His experience affords him a unique understanding of the issues surrounding liquor licenses, specifically nuisance bars and “stop and go” establishments that are a problem in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. The experience he has with restaurants and bars throughout Philadelphia will bring insightful first-hand knowledge of how to better address these concerns.
I look forward to working with Mr. Clarke and the rest of the PLCB on continuing to improve and update Pennsylvania’s liquor laws.
Senate Passes Measure Supporting a More Secure Southern Border
As the unprecedented rise in illegal immigration strains the resources of states throughout the nation, the Senate approved a measure calling for action to address the border crisis and support the rights of states to protect their citizens.
Senate Resolution 234 voices support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s actions to secure the border amid federal inaction by the Biden Administration. It also encourages Gov. Josh Shapiro to join dozens of other governors from across the country who have announced their support of Abbott. The Biden Administration continues to fight Abbott’s lawful exercise of his Constitutional authority to defend his state and its citizens.
According to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, the country’s illegal immigrant population grew to 12.8 million by October 2023. It rose 2.6 million since January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office and used executive orders to move financial resources away from the border, suspend deportations and end the successful “Remain in Mexico” policy.
2023 Accomplishments: Cutting Red Tape
Reducing government red tape has been a priority for Senate Republicans as we work to improve the experience citizens have when they interact with agencies.
Already this session, we have passed a bill that would improve government efficiency by authorizing the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to return unclaimed property without requiring the owners to search for it.
For the Pennsylvanians who must apply for a permit, license or certification, another bill would require state agencies to create an accessible website to explain why a permit application was rejected and enable permit applicants to check their application status. It would also deem a permit, license or certification approved if the agency reviewing the application misses its deadline – giving Pennsylvanians far more predictability than they currently have. This change would also help to attract more business to the state and boost our economy by addressing unreasonable permit delays.
Property Tax Relief is Available for Homeowners
Most homes and farms are eligible for property tax reduction under the Homestead Tax Exemption program.
Under a homestead or farmstead property tax exclusion, the assessed value of each homestead or farmstead is reduced by the same amount before the property tax is computed.
To receive school property tax relief for tax years beginning July 1 or Jan. 1, an application for homestead or farmstead exclusions must be filed by the preceding March 1. School districts are required to notify homeowners by Dec. 31 of each year if their property is not approved for the homestead or farmstead exclusion or if their approval is due to expire. Learn more and find an application.
Public Comment Regarding PPL Settlement Open Now
In late 2022 and early 2023, PPL customers experienced unusually high or low estimated bills, missing monthly bills and inadequate customer service support resulting in customers’ inability to reach PPL Call Center representatives to discuss their billing concerns.
To address those issues, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will evaluate and consider a joint settlement. As part of the evaluation, a public comment period regarding the proposed settlement is active through Feb. 28.
Customers may submit a comment by e-filing through the PUC or sending a written comment at the address below. All comments should reference the docket number of the case: M-2023-3038060.
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