Shapiro signs into law bipartisan budget, ending long impasse

Citing a “commonsense budget,” Gov. Josh Shapiro signed into law Thursday afternoon a bipartisan budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

Agreement on the $45.5 billion appropriations bill (HB 611) ended an impasse dating to the original June 30 deadline. 

The Shapiro Administration said that the budget delivered on the governor’s priorities of creating a stronger economy, safer and healthier communities, and better schools. The 2023-24 budget invests in children’s education, supports businesses in part by accelerating permitting, helps other adults remain in their homes, strengthens and protects communities, and seeks to make certain law enforcement and first responders have needed resources. 

Shapiro also plans to sign into law on Friday an expansion of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate, aimed at easing the burden of rising costs on Pennsylvania seniors. 

“The people of Pennsylvania have entrusted me with the responsibility to bring people together in a divided legislature and to get things done for them – and with this commonsense budget, that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Throughout my campaign and in my first budget address, I laid out a vision for how the commonwealth could create real opportunity and advance real freedom for all Pennsylvanians. 

“With this budget and the expansion of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate, we’re making good on that promise by delivering the largest targeted tax cut for our seniors in nearly two decades, creating real opportunity for our workers by expanding vo-tech and apprenticeship programs, supporting our state troopers and local first responders, and making historic investments in our kids and their schools. This is what it looks like when government works together to make Pennsylvanians’ lives better.” 

Lieutenant Gov. Austin Davis said the bipartisan budget addresses Pennsylvanian’s desires for state legislators to “take off the red and blue jerseys” and put on a Pennsylvania jersey. 

“This budget addresses the most pressing issues facing our communities and delivers real results for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Davis. “It’s a direct investment in making our economy stronger, our communities safer, our schools better and our families healthier.” 

Shapiro line-item vetoed the full $100 million appropriation for the PASS scholarship program.

Highlights of the budget include:

  • Largest increase in basic education funding and historic investment in Pennsylvania schools. 
  • Investments in community and economic development. 
  • Investments in Pennsylvania agriculture. 
  • Increasing access to apprenticeships and vocational and technical education. 
  • Improving Pennsylvania’s permitting and licensing processes. 
  • First-time funding for indigent defense. 
  • Repairing infrastructure and supporting law enforcement. 
  • Investments in mental health, addressing maternal mortality, and supporting EMS and health care providers.

The latter has been criticized by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), which issued a press release Thursday morning stating that the budget’s focus is education funding, leaving seniors and adults with disabilities and those requiring specialized nursing care to be overlooked. Health providers across Pennsylvania have warned legislators that a lack of funding could lead to a collapse of the state’s long-term care system.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) on Wednesday night called the Senate back to session at 1 p.m. Thursday to “negotiate in good faith” and finalize the bill.

Signing HB 611 will provide the necessary funding to schools, counties, and organizations completing 75% of the budget,” Ward stated. “The remaining 25% of the budget requires legislation to authorize expenditures. Gov. Shapiro has provided us the necessary assurances to guarantee the monies for those programs will remain untouched until the legislature has finalized the language.” 

PA House passes Shapiro spending plan, spurring debate on both sides

The Pennsylvania House approved a new, bipartisan $45.5 billion state spending plan late Wednesday night. 

But passage depended on Gov. Josh Shapiro persuading the Democratic-controlled House with a pledge to line-item veto his proposal to use public money to fund vouchers to private schools, a priority favored by Republicans. 

Shapiro’s pledge was issued Wednesday afternoon, the governor stating that he wished to avoid plunging Pennsylvania into a “painful, protracted budget impasse.” 

The bill was approved in the chamber by a 117-86 vote, with every Democrat voting in favor and 15 Republicans joining them. The bill now heads to Shapiro’s desk and is expected to be signed in the coming days since it achieves many of the goals he addressed in his March budget proposal. 

“A budget is a statement of our priorities – and with new investments in students, teachers, seniors, moms, families, farmers, workers, cops, emergency responders, business owners, and more, this is a budget for all Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with a full-time, divided legislature – meaning nothing gets done unless it can make it through our Republican-led Senate and our Democratic-led House. 

“I’m proud that this budget – one that makes historic investments in public education, public safety, workforce development, agriculture, and economic development – passed both the House and Senate, and I look forward to signing it.” 

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., said that while the budget is not perfect, it makes investments in Pennsylvania’s most important resource – its residents. 

“Budgets are statements of values and House Democrats showed that we value education and working people and that we want to build a state that is safe, with good jobs and boundless opportunity,” Bullock said.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster likewise pointed to positive aspects of the plan. 

“It increases funding for career and technical education, workforce development programs, public safety, and property tax relief while maintaining our commitment to supporting public education, the PA State System of Higher Education, and increasing funding for Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship tax credit programs,” Cutler said. 

“It increases support for our Rainy Day Fund, spends less than what the governor originally proposed, and is considerably more reasonable than the unilateral budget passed out of this House about a month ago by the Democrats on a straight party-line vote.” 

Cutler added thar the budget also has elements that cause concern. 

“For instance, it does little to address our structural deficit and runaway and unaccountable welfare programs, which if not addressed, will threaten the long-term ability of our state to genuinely prosper,” Cutler said. 

Investments in agriculture, community and economic development, education, public safety, and workforce development are all included in the budget, along with the second-largest increase for basic education since 2015-16. 

The plan represents an increase of 5% over last year’s approved budget, and the total spending figure would be several hundred million less than what Shapiro originally proposed. It’s also $1.7 billion less than what the House passed in June. 

Pennsylvanian’s two main sources of income, sales tax and income tax, are not increased under the new bill. 

School vouchers represente a prime area of contention, some $100 million being allocated for a program that would help pay for students to attend private or religious schools. Those in favor of the program believe it allows students to travel to schools of their choice. Critics see it as taking money away from public schools and using it for private schools. 

Initially in favor of this first-ever voucher program, Shapiro stated Wednesday afternoon he would line-item veto the full $100 million to break a budget impasse that was in its fifth day. 

Republican lawmakers see the voucher program as a top priority, and it served as a key to a budget deal between the democratic governor and Republican-controlled Senate which led to passage in the Senate on June 30. The program is largely opposed by Democrats, school boards, and teacher unions. 

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, accused Shairpo on Wednesday of “backtracking on a handshake deal.” 

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin issued a joint statement that Shapiro “decided to betray the good faith agreement we reached, leaving tens of thousands of children across Pennsylvania in failing schools.” 

The plan is also less than what many Democrats had hoped for, as Majority Leader Rep. Matthew Bradford, D-Montgomery, noted. 

“Sure, I think there’s missed opportunities, but on balance, I think it moves the Commonwealth forward,” Montgomery said.

New state program will fund home repairs

The 2022-2023 state budget just signed by Gov. Tom Wolf includes $125 million to fund a new program to pay for home repairs and other improvements for those with limited incomes.

Pennsylvania legislators and housing advocates praised the Whole-Home Repairs Program – believed to be the first of its kind in the country – as a step toward addressing the commonwealth’s housing affordability crisis.

The legislation to establish the initiative was proposed by Democratic Sen. Nikil Saval from Philadelphia but earned bipartisan support.

Saval, the Democratic chair of the Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, introduced the legislation in the Senate with the full Democratic Caucus and five Republican senators as co-sponsors.

Homeowners with household incomes not exceeding 80% of area median income are eligible for grants up to $50,000 in the program. Forgivable loans for landlords who meet certain requirements are available as well.

The money can be used for habitability concerns, energy or water efficiency improvements, or accessibility for people with disabilities.

In addition, the $125 million covers staff to assist people in cutting through red tape, and pays for training to expand the skilled local workforce needed to make the improvements, through pre-apprenticeship and other programs.

The commonwealth has some of the oldest housing stock in the country.

“One out of every four Pennsylvania voters lives in a home that needs a critical repair, while one out of every three describes their utility bills as ‘unaffordable,’ ” a release from Saval’s office noted. “And if confronted with the need to make a critical repair to their home, nearly half of Pennsylvanians say they would struggle to afford it.”

With the Whole-Home Repairs Program the first of its kind in the nation, Saval hopes it becomes a model for other states in how to preserve aging housing stock while adding jobs.

“Every person has a right to a home that is safe – a home that is healthy,” he said in the release. “But right now, across our commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of households are denied this right simply because they don’t have access to the resources they need to repair their homes.”

Saval said the program starts to reverse the disinvestment urban, suburban and rural communities have experienced for decades at the hands of government.

“At this time of protracted hardship … we have a program to preserve housing across the commonwealth, to stabilize our communities, to prevent blight and abandonment and displacement, to build a skilled workforce to keep our state at the forefront of the industries of the future, and to protect the place that is most dear to all of us: home.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Gov. Wolf’s 2022-23 budget proposes $4.5 billion spending increase 

In his final budget speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf looked back at how the state has recovered from the budget deficit it was in during his first budget address in 2015 and highlighted plans for a $43.7 billion budget that he says can leverage the state’s current surplus. 

Wolf’s budget looks to invest in job training and employee retention with a series of provisions including increasing the minimum wage, reducing the corporate net income tax, funding childcare options for state employees and more. 

It also includes a significant emphasis on pre-k through college education with $1.9 billion in allocated funds. 

“Over the past seven years, we’ve turned a $2-3 billion structural budget deficit into a $2-3 billion budget surplus. We’ve built our Rainy Day Fund to more than $2.8 billion—more than 12,000 times what it was when I took office,” Wolf said in his address on Tuesday. “We are no longer digging out of a hole. We’re ready to build. And this year’s budget does exactly that, by making new investments that will build a brighter future for Pennsylvania families.” 

The budget would increase spending by $4.5 billion and would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security, according to a statement released by Senate Republican Leaders, who said the budget was less about Pennsylvania and more about Wolf’s legacy. 

“While this year’s revenues continue to outpace estimates, the long-term financial picture for the Commonwealth remains uncertain. The Governor’s revenue and spending projections over the next several years are unrealistic, do not align with traditional rates of growth and will make worse our existing structural imbalance,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. 

The budget continues an effort by the Wolf Administration to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which would increase to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 in 2028. 

Wolf’s annual push for increases to the minimum wage has been met with scrutiny by business associations that say that a minimum wage would harm small businesses in rural regions and that the majority of Pennsylvania businesses have moved away from the state minimum of $7.25 an hour. 

“Governor Wolf again called for increasing the minimum wage to an eventual $15/hour. The median wage in Pennsylvania increased from $16.50 in 2020 to $17.00 in 2021. The market continues to move wages far beyond $7.25/hour, demonstrating little need for new government wage mandates,” the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote in a statement on Tuesday. 

The budget also seeks to decrease the state’s corporate net income tax rate from 9.99% to 4.99% “as quickly as possible.” Pennsylvania’s historically high corporate net income tax has been pointed to as a harm to Pennsylvania’s competitiveness in the business sector and could drive additional business into the region if it were to fall. 

Funding for Pennsylvania’s businesses and workforce through the budget would also include $1.5 million for Industrial Resource Centers and $8 million for job training through the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania. 

The $1.9 billion in educational funding pledged through the budget would be parsed across pre-k and through colleges with $70 million going to early education, $1.75 billion for general investments in K-12 schools and over $475 million for higher education. 

Regarding health care and long-term care funding, the budget sets aside $91.25 million to increase Medical Assistance rates for skilled nursing facility providers and $14 million for state veteran’s homes. 

Further investments include $50 million to increase the supplementary payment rates for personal care homes, a $36.6 million increase in county mental health base funds and a $14.3 million increase to the SNAP benefit for low-income older adults. 

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a statewide advocacy organization for long term care providers, said that the budget was “not enough.” 

“The Governor’s proposed Medicaid funding increase would be a critical step toward sustainability for long-term care – but it’s simply not enough,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the association. “At a time when nursing home providers are questioning their operational viability due to inflation and continued COVID-19 expenses, a workforce shortage has become a full-blown crisis, which has created bottlenecks in hospitals and access to care issues in long-term care facilities.” 

RGGI receives IRRC approval and now heads to the state General Assembly 

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program that would reward power companies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, was approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission of Pennsylvania and will now go the General Assembly for debate.

RGGI is a partnership between 10 Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. States participating in the program set a regional cap on CO2 emissions from electric power plants.

Each state has its CO2 allowance budget, which plants must purchase from in an equal amount to the CO2 they emit.

The state Department of Environmental Protection published its proposed rulemaking for the initiative in the Pennsylvania Bulletin in November and held a public comment period until Jan. 14. This summer it released its final rulemaking documents on the program, which were then brought to the IRRC.

IRRC’s decision is a win for the Wolf administration, which has pushed for its passage. In a statement, Wolf said RGGI “is one more way for Pennsylvania, which is a major electricity producer, to reduce carbon emissions and achieve our climate goals.”

Opponents, however, oppose the plan saying the initiative would harm business and could ultimately send Pennsylvania’s power plants to other states.

In its own statement on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said businesses need to have a seat at the table when addressing climate change.

“While we were afforded the opportunity to provide input into this process, the final regulation did not, in our view, adequately address the potential for Pennsylvania to lose vital power generation capacity to neighboring states,” said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the chamber. “Nor did it adequately protect our industrial manufacturers, and the rule will impose significant cost on ratepayers, families and businesses at a time when Pennsylvania is struggling to recover from the pandemic.”

Nursing home strike cites staff shortages, outdated regulations

Approximately 1,500 Pennsylvania nursing home workers from 21 different homes across the state are expected to strike today, citing a lack of action by the state and nursing homes to address unsafe staffing numbers and outdated nursing home regulations.

Members of nursing union SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania plan to strike Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to demand improvements in their workplaces following the deaths of 13,000 nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEIU first announced that a portion of its 45,000 members had voted to strike at their respective nursing homes days before Gov. Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s $40.8 billion general fund budget into law late last month.

The budget included $282 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to be allocated to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the funds will help attract and keep caregivers at the bedside, it will not impact low starting wages offered by nursing home employers that make it impossible to recruit enough caregivers, according to a statement released by SEIU.

“COVID ripped the band-aid off what we’ve been going through for the past 20 years,” said Shelly Lawrence, a certified nursing assistant in western Pennsylvania and a member of SEIU. “Staffing is terrible and wages are too low to bring in the staff our residents need. Going on strike was a hard decision, but we have to send the strongest message we can for this one day that will make the real change we need.”

The striking workers include nurses, nurses’ aides and other caregiver positions from 21 of SEIU’s 110 facilities. They include employees at Gardens at Blue Ridge in Harrisburg and Rose City Health and Rehab in Lancaster.

The 1,500 workers participating in the strike are currently negotiating separate union contracts and almost all have identified staffing, living wages, increased starting wages and affordable health care as priorities that need to be addressed, according to the union.

Nursing home regulations are also a point of contention. Current staffing guidelines say that residents only need 2.7 hours of care per day but many nursing home workers want to see it rise to 4.1 hours of care, which would be in line with what studies and experts agree is needed for safe, quality care, wrote SEIU.

“If a resident needs to be turned every two hours but you can’t get there for four hours, they risk pressure sores,” said Terry Thomas, a certified nursing assistant at Powerback in Philadelphia and a member of SEIU.  “If they aren’t getting properly bathed and getting lotion applied, skin will break down. If they’re not changed out of soiled briefs for hours, they’ll get a UTI.”

SEIU has yet to release a full list of nursing homes included in the strike. Neither Gardens at Blue Ridge nor Rose City Health and Rehab were immediately available for comment.

Retirement plan fees: are you on the right track?

Summer is not only time for cookouts and beach days, but as business owners and leaders, it’s also time for retirement plan reviews. These review conversations should include discussions of fees – something that may seem easy to brush off as standard and mostly static, but in fact, closely examining the fees makes a difference for your legal protection and your employees’ futures.

Fiduciary Responsibility

Fees may be more complex than a simple line-item in your corporate budget; if you type 401(k) lawsuits into a Google search, you can read countless stories of ligation brought by either excessive fees or inappropriate investment options.

Business owners who sponsor plans must manage their fiduciary responsibilities, including administrative support, selecting and monitoring service providers, plan design and management and participant communication. In the context of ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law protecting individuals, plan fiduciaries must act in the best interest of plan participants and beneficiaries. This includes creating a culture of monitoring the plan fees on a regular basis to ensure that they are reasonable for what the plan is receiving.

Fee Benchmarking

Fee benchmarking is an important piece of the 401(k) governance process. Each year, the U.S. Department of Labor requires every 401(k) plan to distribute an annual fee notice to plan participants. Fees can come in all forms such as the fund investment fees, investment advisory fees, and the cost to run the plan such as compliance or and custodial/recordkeeping fees. Unfortunately, 401(k) plans have ongoing costs, and there are many ways for those costs to take shape.

Fee structures

The most common method of charging for 401(k) plans is either direct or indirect fees for the plan participants. Direct fees to the participants, such as custodial/recordkeeping fees, administrative fees, and investment advisory fees, are typically paid via plan assets and are very transparent since they will be listed on fee disclosures and participant’s statements as a line item.

Mutual fund companies also withhold their fund fees or expense ratio from the performance of the fund, which would be indirect, as plan participants do not see them deducted on their statements. Some of these expense ratios are higher cost. These higher ratios provide a revenue share to offset the plan cost. Years ago, indirect fees were the most common in 401(k) plans, but over the last ten years the industry has shifted to the more transparent direct fee model.

Plan Adviser

There are many types of advisers providing business retirement plan services. Finding one that aligns with your company culture and your leadership style is key. Your adviser should act as the go-to for you and your employees/participants to help prepare you for retirement. Since business functionality and operations may look different now due to the pandemic, an adviser who focuses on employee engagement, employee enrollment, plan design, and virtual communications are part of the new normal. An adviser’s compensation should be tied to the value-added services they provide to the plan sponsor and participants. Trusted advisers walk hand-in-hand with plan sponsors to provide a tremendous benefit for their participants as well as making sure fees are monitored on an ongoing basis and benchmarked regularly.

Reviews and Changes

During an annual plan review, business owners and leaders should review their total fees with their advisor to make sure that plan fees are fairly aligned to the marketplace. If you are not sure if your fees are reasonable, the best practice is to benchmark your plan every three years.

The records-keeping industry has been very competitive over the last 10 years with much consolidation. When benchmarking your plan, have your advisor go to a few different service providers and provide a proposal for service to complete thorough due diligence. These proposals should include who will be the custodian for the assets, the types of investments available on their platform, and the participant education options available. Many record keepers are providing greater resources through technological advances at a much lower cost than even just a few years ago. The industry has also changed by moving from actively managed funds to passively managed funds, delivering lower overall plan costs. A quality advisor can gather the information and provide insights and analysis into what option may be the best fit for your company, comparing price, customer service, technology, and communication.

Examining your detailed fee structure as well as the investment options available to your participants can be important for your liability as a business owner. Knowing the changing trends in the 401(k) plan industry, how you can adjust to those trends to support your team, and ensure you have a retirement plan that works for you and your staff can help your company remain strong.

Steven P. Maher, CPFA, is a partner and senior wealth adviser at Domani Wealth.

Wolf signs 2021-2022 state budget that ‘invests in Pennsylvanians’

Pennsylvania’s $40.8 billion general fund budget was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday following approval by the House and Senate last Friday.

The budget includes the largest education funding increase in state history and allocates millions of dollars from Pennsylvania’s share of the American Rescue Plan.

“This is a budget that invests in Pennsylvanians,” said Gov. Wolf. “It is a budget that will help those hit hardest by the pandemic get the support they need, while at the same time making crucial investments in our future by supporting the students and workers who will drive our economy forward in the years to come.”

The plan has been criticized for not committing enough funds to bolster post-pandemic health care throughout Pennsylvania and failing to address the Commonwealth’s corporate net income tax rate– the second highest in the nation.

The budget does not include any of the tax increases proposed by Wolf in his February proposed budget.

Wolf expected to sign ‘fiscally responsible’ budget that disappoints business groups

Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign a $40.8 billion general fund budget that includes the largest education funding increase in state history and allocates millions of dollars from Pennsylvania’s share of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for rental assistance, child care, nursing home and long-term care recovery and more, before its Wednesday deadline.

But the budget, praised for its bipartisanship, disappointed business groups who thought it should do more to help employers harmed by the pandemic.

The bipartisan consensus reached to bring together a timely budget was good to see, but the spending plan does not do enough to tackle hurdles for Pennsylvania businesses, such as improving the state’s corporate net income tax rate, said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

“While we are pleased with the bipartisan consensus reached in this budget, we believe much more work needs to be done to boost the Commonwealth’s competitiveness,” said Barr. “We encourage the legislature to embrace our Rise to the Challenge initiative to help the private sector chart a new course to a thriving economy that will lead to more jobs and opportunities for all Pennsylvanians.”

The budget does not include any of the tax increases proposed by Wolf in his February proposed budget.

Following its approval last week, Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin/Perry, called the budget fiscally responsible for not including the proposed taxes, which included a 46% Personal Income Tax hike and the imposition of an energy tax.

“This budget makes record investments in our schools, provides for essential government services and forgoes the Governor’s proposed tax hikes on hardworking Pennsylvanians as our economy recovers from the pandemic,” DiSanto said. “Rather than spend all this year’s surplus and federal stimulus funds as the Democrats have been advocating, this budget prudently anticipates tomorrow’s challenges and assures the Commonwealth is in a solid financial position to address next year’s projected budget deficit.”

The budget details how the state will use funds given to it through the American Rescue Plan Act, which includes $728.9 million to help stabilize the child care industry.

“This investment will allow parents to return to work with the comfort of knowing their young children are in safe and nurturing child care. This crucial support will help families and employers,” Wolf said.

The budget allots $450 million in ARP funding for rental assistance, $350 million for homeowner mortgage assistance, $36 million to help pay water bills and $30 million in new state dollars for violence intervention.

Another $282 million in ARP funding is set aside to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities recover from the pandemic, something that nursing home workers rallied for on the steps of the state Capitol earlier this month.

“After an unprecedented 18 months of a pandemic which took the lives of over 27,000 Pennsylvanians and devastated our healthcare workforce, PA legislators have reached a budget agreement that listens to caregivers and begins to address the long work ahead to rebuild and reform our healthcare system,” said Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state’s largest union of nurses and healthcare workers.

The budget does not include the PA Heroes Act, which would have set aside $650 million in ARP funds to support grants for community programs to bolster post-pandemic health care.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), an ardent advocate for the act and a statewide organization made up of 240 state health care providers, called the exclusion a “failure to address newly emerging challenges.”

“We offered a carefully crafted plan to support healthcare workers, to rebuild the infrastructure we need for the next pandemic, and to address the behavioral health crisis exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Andy Carter, president and CEO of HAP. “The plan is also specifically designed to target resources where they are needed and includes strict accountability for implementing real improvements to care. Yet, lawmakers are leaving town with those plans sitting on the drawing board, ignored.”

The budget allocates $416 million to public education funding with $200 million going to increase the state’s Fair Funding Formula for school districts, and $100 million for Level Up, a new initiative providing funding for Pennsylvania’s 100 most underfunded districts.

It also provides a $50 million increase in funding for special education, a $30 million increase for early education and $20 million for Ready to Learn, $11 million for preschool Early Intervention and $5 million for community colleges.

$400 million in ARP funds will be invested to address learning loss, provide summer enrichment and after school programs for Pennsylvania school districts and make college education more affordable and accessible for students entering the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Midstate businesses request millions of dollars in grant funding

A greenhouse expansion for Cumberland County-based medical marijuana grower and processor Organic Remedies and the demolition and redevelopment of York’s Manna Pro building are just two of many projects that midstate businesses have asked for state grant funding to help complete.

Pennsylvania’s Office of the Budget announced all of the state’s businesses and organizations that applied for grant funding through its Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) this month.

The program is administered by the office and awards funds to economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.

To be funded, a project must have a regional or multijurisdictional impact and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenue or other forms of economic activity.

Midstate businesses and organizations submitted 59 applications, asking for over $200 million.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of York requested $10 million for its Manna Pro Redevelopment project, under which the city would demolish the Manna Pro building near the York Fairgrounds and redevelop the site into a mixed-use manufacturing and hospitality/retail site.

Organic Remedies, a medical marijuana grower, processor and distributor, requested $2 million through the program to renovate and expand its existing organic greenhouse facilities.

York developer Pasch Companies requested $1 million to help it conduct flood plain restoration for its 450-acre Freedom Square project.

Several health care projects would benefit from the funding. Lancaster General Hospital requested $1.5 million for the demolition and renovation of part of its second floor.

Integrated Development Partners, an engineering consultant in Wormleysburg, requested $2.5 million for help in the construction of Hamilton Health Center’s new Steelton Borough facility, which will include medical exam rooms, administrative offices and clinical spaces.

The total list of projects and their requested grant funds includes:

Adams County

  • $2 million for the ACHS Museum; Archives and Education Center; Adams County Historical Society; Cumberland Township.
  • $1.5 million for Northern Adams County childcare and community health; Bermudian Springs School District; Huntington Township.

Cumberland County

  • $3 million for Allenberry 2.0 restoration; Allenberry Resort and Lodging LLC; Monroe Township.
  • $1.26 million for Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center reconstruction and rehabilitation; Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center; Carlisle Borough.
  • $5 million for the Hall of the American Soldier Visitor and Education Center; Military Heritage Foundation; Middlesex Township.
  • $2 million for the Organic Remedies Grower and Processor Facility; Organic Remedies Inc.; Middlesex Township.
  • $2 million for the removal of blight and redevelopment of Carlisle Pike intersection; Koloman Development LLC; Hampden Township.
  • $3.22 million for renovations to Sadler Health Center Trindle Road; Sadler Health Center Corp.: Hampden Township.

Dauphin County

  • $5 million for redevelopments to the Atlas Building; Mighty Group Holdings LLC; Harrisburg.
  • $4 million for the Harrisburg JEDII Center; The Bridge HBG LLC; Harrisburg.
  • $1 million for Dauphin County Library System Walnut Street Harrisburg Expansion; Dauphin County Library System; Harrisburg.
  • $2.5 million for the Hamilton Health Center in Steelton Borough; Integrated Development Partners LLC; Steelton Borough.
  • $2 million for the Harrisburg Events Center; 2201NFS LLC; Harrisburg.
  • $1.01 million for Harrisburg Scottish Rite Cathedral and Theater preservation; Harrisburg Scottish Rite Cathedral and Theatre and the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Central Pennsylvania; Harrisburg.
  • $8 million for Harrisburg’s MLK City Government Center; City of Harrisburg; Harrisburg.
  • $5 million for Judicial Center and Public Parking in Midtown Harrisburg; 400 Reily Street Management; Harrisburg.
  • $2 million for the Hershey IcePlex; Derry Township ICDA; Derry Township.
  • $1.5 million for the Market Street Harrisburg Events Pocket Park; Market Street Quad LLC; Harrisburg.
  • $4.25 million for the Penn State College of Medicine Comparative Medicine Research Facility in Hershey; The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Derry Township.
  • $2.5 million for improvements to the Presbyterian Apartments; Presbyterian Senior Living; Harrisburg.
  • $419,000 for the PSU-HBG Bio-Behavioral Research and Education Clinic in Middletown; The Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg Campus; Lower Swatara Township.
  • $5 million for Susquehanna Union Green; Hawthorne SPELLC; Susquehanna Township.
  • $2.5 million for the Swatara Township Municipal Complex Facility; Swatara Township.
  • $1.5 million for the West Hanover Township Municipal Complex; West Hanover Township.

Lancaster County

  • $4 million for an expansion to the Arconic Lancaster Mill; Arconic Corp.; Manheim Township.
  • $10 million for Black Horse Distribution Center; Wright Ebersole LLC; East Cocalico Township.
  • $950,000 for City of Lancaster Police Station renovations; City of Lancaster.
  • $1 million for expansions to Janus School STEM; The Janus School; Mount Joy Borough.
  • $1.5 million for an expansion to Lancaster General Hospital Cardiology; Lancaster General Hospital; Lancaster.
  • $1.5 million for renovations to the National Watch and Clock Museum Facility; National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Inc.; Columbia Borough.
  • $2.5 million for the new Lancaster Public Library at Barney Ewell Plaza; Lancaster Public Library; Lancaster.
  • $2 million for the Pleasant View Communities Cultural Center; Pleasant View Communities; Penn Township.
  • $5 million for Rebman’s building redevelopment; OZFund Inc.; Lancaster.
  • $5 million for Warwick School District Facilities capital improvement program; Warwick School District; Warwick Township.

Lebanon County

  • $1.04 million for barn rebuild; Prairie Fire Farms Foundation; East Hanover Township.
  • $8.42 million for City of Lebanon Transit Intermodal Center and Parking Garage; City of Lebanon; Lebanon.
  • $4.99 million for Eastern Lebanon County High School athletic facilities; Eastern Lebanon County School District; Jackson Township.
  • $3.5 million for LVC Nursing and Interdisciplinary Health Education facility; Lebanon Valley College; Annville Township.
  • $2.74 million for Whole Plants Health expansion; Whole Plants LLC; Lebanon.

York County

  • $4 million for 15EPhiladelphia—York; 15 E Philadelphia LLC; York.
  • $1.3 million for Air Dynamics Industrial Systems Corp.; York.
  • $2.32 million for Appell Center infrastructure revitalization; Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center; York.
  • $6 million for Ballpark Commons northern gateway; York County Industrial Development Authority; York.
  • $2.5 million for Byrnes Health Education campus expansion; Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center Inc.; York.
  • $3 million for the Children’s Aid Society childcare center; Children’s Aid Society SOPA COB Inc.; York.
  • $10 million for the Codorus Greenway; York County Economic Alliance; York.
  • $7.24 million for the Community Progress Council Integrated Services Building; Community Progress Council Inc.; York.
  • $4 million for the Crispus Attucks York African American History Museum; Crispus Attucks York; York.
  • $3.25 for Emanuel Community Development – veterans housing and health care; Emanuel Community Development Corp.; York.
  • $1 million for Freedom Square; Pasch Companies; Conewago Township.
  • $10 million for Manna Pro redevelopment; Redevelopment Authority of the City of York; York.
  • $1 million for Hanover trolley trail; York County Rail Trail Authority; Heidelberg Township.
  • $5 million for the North West Triangle York Plan 2.0 Innovation and Equity District; 3tc robotics LLC; York.
  • $4.21 million for the Roth’s Church Road community partnership; YMCA of York and York County; Spring Grove Borough.
  • $5 million for the Springettsbury Township police and administration building; Springettsbury Township.
  • $4.7 million for the Susquehanna Discovery Center; Susquehanna Heritage Corp.; Hellam Township.
  • $2.5 million for renovations to the UPMC Hanover emergency department and emergency department behavioral health; UPMC Hanover; Hanover Borough.
  • $3 million for York County History Campus – library and archives; York County History Center; York.
  • $1 million for York County Libraries Capital Project 21; York County Libraries; York.

A complete list of all the grant requests in the state can be found here.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax cut will hurt small business, make state less competitive, business leaders say

In his annual budget address on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf outlined a $40.2 billion spending plan he says will reduce taxes for working class families and invest nearly $2 billion in new resources in the public education system.

But, his plan to raise the personal income tax on households earning above $84,000 for a family of four, was quickly denounced by business leaders who say it will crush already suffering small business owners.

Under the governor’s plan, 33% of Pennsylvanians would see their income tax increase 46%, from 3.07% to 4.49%. For example, a married couple with two children would pay no PIT if they make less than $50,000. The same family making $84,000 receive a tax cut.

But a four-person family with household income of $100,000 would pay an additional $1,400 a year.

Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland) said that the tax increases are an additional punch to the gut for small businesses attempting to recover after the pandemic.

“The governor’s proposed personal income tax increase of nearly 50% would take direct aim at the paychecks of Pennsylvanians who have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” he said. “I also find it alarming that the governor’s plan would harm the businesses that are already struggling to recover from the closures since most small businesses themselves pay the personal income tax.”

Wolf said that, while Pennsylvania’s personal income tax rates are relatively low and a good deal for residents who are financially secure, lower income residents pay the same rates.

A chart provided by the Pa. House Democratic Appropriations Committee details Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed personal income tax increases.

The tax increase would add nearly $3 billion to the general fund budget, which would help pay for increases to basic and special education funding, the state’s subsidized child care program and more.

“When you go to file your taxes every year, you have to pay the same exact rates as I do,” Wolf said. “I want to help working families get ahead by reducing their taxes. If you’re married with two kids, and you earn less than $84,000 a year, I suggest we give you a tax cut.”

The Wolf Administration argues that the tax cut will help more than 400,000 business owners, saving over $240 million. In a statement to the Central Penn Business Journal, Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s press secretary, said that the average tax decrease would be $600.

Wolf’s proposed personal income tax hike is not the only policy that the business community is wary of. Legislative priorities listed in the proposal include raising the state’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour, adding a new tax on the natural gas industry and a requirement that related groups of businesses combine their income for tax purposes.

“Many of the policies recently outlined by the governor as among his top legislative priorities for the year… will only increase the cost of doing business in the state and make the Commonwealth less competitive overall,” said Gene Barr, CEO and president of the Harrisburg-based PA Chamber of Business and Industry.

While many businesses may see a decrease in taxes through Wolf’s plan, businesses that are small enough to receive the cut would also be the most likely to see adverse effects from an increase to the minimum wage.

Wolf’s budget plan also calls for a 25% decrease in Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax, an increase of funding to the state’s workforce development system to help workers impacted by the pandemic find work, and the legalization of recreational cannabis.

While he is glad to see the Wolf Administration acknowledge the state’s high corporate net income tax of 9.99%, Barr said that the state would need to enact further decreases to stay competitive with other states.