In this Update:
Local Government Excellence Awards
This past week a ceremony was held in Harrisburg to honor the recipients of the 2023 Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.
I’m proud two awards were presented to individuals within the 21st Senatorial District.
The first of the awards, for innovative planning and sound land use practices, went to a collection of individuals: the Southwest Butler Stormwater Planning Commission.
Flooding threats are nothing new for the Butler County communities located along the Connoquenessing Creek and its tributaries, but for individual municipalities, finding solutions to prevent or limit stormwater-caused damage has proven difficult. In 2019, following more significant flooding events in the area, the Butler County commissioners called a meeting of all municipalities to encourage municipalities to work together to address regional stormwater issues.
Ten municipalities – Adams, Cranberry, Forward, Jackson, Lancaster and Penn townships, as well as Evans City, Harmony, Seven Fields, and Zelienople – organized the Southwest Butler Stormwater Planning Commission and have been meeting regularly to discuss stormwater and what they could do to mitigate future flooding events. The 10 municipalities, along with Butler County, paid for a stormwater study of the region and identified priority projects in both areas of regulations and future capital projects. Employing a strategic inter-municipal approach, the group has approved the recommendations and begun a process to amend local regulations in each municipality to pursue projects that benefit the region.
The efforts of the Southwest Butler Stormwater Planning Commission to develop a plan to mitigate flooding is truly worthy of recognition. Their work will soon produce tangible benefits for several municipalities throughout southeast Butler County.
Also receiving an award, to honor his contributions to local government throughout his career, was Franklin Mayor Douglas Baker.
Whether it was as a police officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a member of city council or mayor, Douglas Baker has lived a life of public service to his community. This award, recognizing his career contributions, is well deserved.
Baker is currently serving his fourth term as mayor of the City of Franklin, but his public service career began more than four decades ago when he became a police officer for the City of Franklin. During his time on the force, he held the rank of patrol officer, public safety officer, detective and lieutenant while maintaining certifications as an emergency medical technician and firefighter. Not long after his retirement from the force in 2003, Baker was appointed to fill a vacancy on city council, on which he served until his election as mayor in 2009. He also serves as the city’s emergency management coordinator and is the first vice president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for Pennsylvania’s 3rd class cities.
Additionally, Baker has participated in numerous local, regional and statewide committees such as the STOP Grant Implementation Plan at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Venango County’s Together We Can Council, DUI Advisory Board, and Elder Abuse Task Force. He also serves as coordinator for Venango County’s STOP Violence Against Women Grant and Police Traffic Services Grant.
The Governor’s Awards for Local Government Excellence recognize local officials for their successes in undertaking innovative initiatives to improve the quality of life in their communities. The Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, within the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, partners with the multiple local government organizations to sponsor the annual awards.
Senate Concludes State Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week finished three weeks of public hearings about the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a $45.8 billion budget that would increase spending by $1.3 billion and all but deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Among the key points from this week’s hearings:
Workforce issues, the state’s tax structure and the need to help businesses grow and stay in Pennsylvania drove the conversation during the Department of Community and Economic Development hearing.
The Department of Corrections/Pennsylvania Parole Board hearing covered the state’s recidivism rate and declining inmate population. The costs associated with the 750 vacancies in the Department of Corrections – which results in increased use of overtime – and efforts to protect inmates from human trafficking were also discussed.
Questions about how the Department of Human Services is handling reduced federal emergency funding were raised during the hearing. The conversation also covered the Shapiro Administration’s request for state taxpayers to backfill millions of dollars cut by the Biden Administration.
The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2023-24 state budget.
You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at PASenateGOP.com.
Monthly Appropriations Update Shows Lagging Sales Tax Collections
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that sales and use tax (SUT) collections were $25 million, or 2.3%, below estimate for the month. Perhaps more importantly, March’s SUT collections were below March 2022’s collections.
SUT is the second-largest source of revenue for the General Fund and is mostly due on a “pay-as-you-go” basis throughout the year. Closely monitoring these collections for continued weakness could help signify any potential slowing of the economy.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
Safely Dispose of Unused Prescriptions on April 22
Conveniently remove opioids and other unused medicines from your home on Saturday, April 22, as part of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
More than 13 tons of prescription drugs were disposed of across Pennsylvania in the Prescription Drug Take Back Day held last October.
Find a location to safely dispose of unused drugs here.
Farmers, Help PA Claim Federal Funding
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is collecting responses for the 2022 Census of Agriculture, which impacts funding priorities for numerous programs. Any farmers who have not returned their questionnaires are encouraged to respond by mail or online here.
In addition to directing the use of tax dollars, the census data also informs decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education and more.
State Grant Deadline is May 1 for PA College Students
The deadline for students and families to submit their applications for the 2023-24 Pennsylvania State Grant program is May 1. This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in a degree program or other college or university (excluding community colleges).
To apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access the FAFSA online at www.PHEAA.org/FAFSA or www.fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.
Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 800-692-7392 for personal assistance.
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