|This Year’s Savings May Prevent Next Year’s Tax Hike
With the help of a strong economy and healthy tax returns combined with legislators’ work to control state spending, the new state budget set aside more than $300 million in the state’s version of a savings account, known as the Rainy Day Fund.
The fund exists to pay for unanticipated emergencies, such as natural disasters or economic downturns. The Commonwealth now is in a position to weather a considerable emergency without having to raise taxes on hard-working Pennsylvanians.
Last year marked the first deposit in the Rainy Day Fund in more than a decade. It totaled just $22 million.
By practicing fiscal restraint and setting aside money for unanticipated expenses, legislators hope this year’s responsible budgeting will help avoid tax increases in the future.
New Law to Save Taxpayers Money
Working to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, the General Assembly passed a new law that will enable the Commonwealth to pay off state debt more quickly and save on interest costs.
Act 43 of 2019 will change the way state bonds are issued to accelerate the retirement of Pennsylvania’s General Obligation debt, reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of state-issued bonds, and help the Commonwealth improve its bond rating.
The law requires the principal for new issuances of state debt to be repaid in equal amounts over the term of the bond – usually 20 years – rather than front loading interest payments with lower principal payments that grow as the bonds mature.
PennDOT Accepting Applications for Winter Maintenance Positions
Individuals seeking seasonal employment are encouraged to apply for a variety of winter maintenance positions now open through PennDOT.
The program runs from September through April, and includes positions for transportation equipment operators, diesel and construction equipment mechanics, automotive mechanics, tradesman helpers, clerks, clerk typists, stock clerks, welders, semi-skilled laborers and custodial workers.
Individuals in these positions supplement the permanent workforce and have the potential to lead to permanent full-time employment. Additional details about the positions, along with the job application, are available at employment.pa.gov. Click on “Open Jobs” and then go to “PennDOT Winter Program.”
Governor Aims to Fund Voting Machine Replacement without Legislative Authorization
After vetoing a key election reform bill that would have also provided $90 million in funding to help counties replace their voting machines, the governor announced this week he would simply go around the Legislature and supply the funding unilaterally.
Legislators in both the House and Senate question the governor’s authority to take such action without legislative authorization.
The need for the funding was brought about by the governor’s decision to decertify every type of voting machine currently in use in the Commonwealth. It is estimated to cost $150 million to replace machines in all 67 counties, a significant burden on taxpayers across the state.
By vetoing the legislation, the governor is also robbing voters of other needed election improvements, including extending the deadline for submission of absentee ballots to ensure all votes count and creating a commission to manage the process for election machine decertification in the future.
Finally, the bill would have brought Pennsylvania in line with more than 40 other states by eliminating the “straight party” voting option, the measure most strongly opposed by the governor. The change could have opened the door to more minor party candidates and encouraged voters to cast their ballots for a person rather than a party.
Calling on the FCC to Protect Your Phone from Spoofers
Calls from telemarketers have long been an issue, but the situation becomes dangerous when scammers “spoof” calls. That’s when a call shows a different name or phone number than is actually associated with the caller. All too often it can result in recipients being tricked into sharing their personal information and scammed out of their hard-earned money.
Spoofing needs to be swiftly and aggressively addressed. Despite being illegal, these unwanted robocalls that appear to originate from local, often legitimate, numbers in order to deceive consumers are on the rise.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously supported a resolution urging Congress to grant additional authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop unwanted robocalls and spoofing, as well as to educate the public on how to report illegal calls. Spam calls are the most frequent complaint received by the FCC, and it’s time to do something about it.
While we implore the FCC to stop the harassment of Pennsylvanians through their own devices, residents can take action to limit another form of harassment – unwanted calls from telemarketers.
There are two Do Not Call Lists available: The National Do Not Call List and the Pennsylvania Do Not Call List. Register your cell phone and landline numbers with the state list by calling 888-777-3406 and the national list by calling 888-382-1222. Both phone numbers are toll free.
Staying Safe in Summer Heat and Humidity
With temperatures predicted to rise into the 90s again next week, the state Department of Health is offering several tips to help stay cool and safe.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting and light-colored clothing; limit outdoor activities to early morning or evening hours when temperatures are usually cooler; and pace yourself if you do need to be outdoors. When possible, stay indoors in air conditioning on hot days.
Staying hydrated is important, and health experts recommend drinking plenty of water throughout the day, not waiting until you feel thirsty. Avoid consuming caffeinated, alcoholic or sugary beverages, and replace salt lost from perspiration by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.
Extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States each year. Infants and young children, people age 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions and those who must work outdoors are especially at risk for developing a heat-related illness.
Learn more here.