Citing business experiences, several Pa. legislators suspend their pay during budget impasse

As a private business owner, Jamie Flick said he was forced to make difficult decisions 10 years ago when the state budget was not completed for nine months after the fiscal year began.

Because his company works primarily with county governments and agencies, Flick could not take a paycheck from his own company and had to consider cutting hours for other employees.

“This is not how our state should operate,” said Flick, who as a current member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, is one of 12 state representatives who have asked that their pay be withheld for the month of July as the state budget impasse continues. There are 203 members of the state House.

Negotiations on a budget plan fell through between majority parties in the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Josh Shapiro, and neither chamber is scheduled to return to Harrisburg until September. Leaders can call members back early if a plan is negotiated.

Reps. Flick (R-Lycoming/Union) and Jill Cooper (R-Westmoreland) have committed to having their pay withheld for August as well should the budget impasse continue. Flick said he is withholding his pay for July, August, and beyond if necessary as he believes one of the most important jobs of the General Assembly is adopting the annual state budget.

“In recent years there have been numerous occurrences of the annual budget not being adopted before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1 as required by law,” Flick said in a statement. “When the budget is not enacted in a timely manner, many payments to counties, school districts, service providers and nonprofits, to name a few, are not timely made and many important programs may be interrupted, and/or positions may be cut, forcing people to lose their jobs.”

Flick said in addition to withholding his pay, he is co-sponsoring legislation that will require the compensation of the governor, lieutenant governor, and members of the General Assembly to be suspended during a budget impasse.

“This will put legislators on similar footing with others who depend upon the annual appropriation process,” said Flick.

Cooper is preparing to introduce legislation that would result in suspended pay for legislators and the governor until the budget is passed.

“Responsible budgeting is Government 101,” Cooper said. “Harrisburg has its core services and functions and when we don’t have a budget in place to begin a fiscal year, those services, such as programs for special needs populations, education and food banks, are at risk of being disrupted.”

Cooper said Pennsylvanians deserve better than a process that hurts the state’s most vulnerable populations, while legislators continue to be fully compensated.

“My motivation is simple; right now, we have a missed deadline, and worse yet, there seems to be a lack of urgency to complete the job as soon as possible,” said Cooper. “Workers across the state, whose taxes actually pay our salaries, would have been fired for the same behaviors.”

PA Chambers of commerce, businesses urge permitting reform

Chambers of commerce and business associations across Pennsylvania are urging the Shapiro Administration and the state’s House and Senate to undertake permitting reform. 

Representing many of Pennsylvania’s industries and professions, the chambers and businesses collectively sent a letter Monday to Gov. Josh Shapiro and the members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 

The letter urges them to “fix the commonwealth’s dysfunctional and unpredictable permitting system. Doing so will result in greater opportunity for our residents, a modernized system of infrastructure, and encourage more investment into our state.” 

State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, sponsored Senate Bill 350, calling for transparency in permitting. She said in a memorandum that the “permitting process should be a collaborative effort between the entity seeking the permit and government and not something that is overly burdensome or punitive.” 

Phillips-Hill said Senate Bill 28, introduced in the last session to reform the permitting process, will be reintroduced. The legislation will require agencies which issue permits to increase transparency by posting information on their websites about permits they grant.  The creation of an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications and the stating of the legal authority the agency relies on when rejecting a permit application are also parts of the legislation. 

Phillips-Hill noted that Shapiro on his campaign trail emphasized the need to provide Pennsylvania businesses with permitting transparency and dates when permits can be expected. 

In one of his first steps as governor, Shapiro signed an executive order on Jan. 31 to improve response times for licenses, permits, or certificates applied for through the state. He announced on May 5 that all agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction completed a review of their licensing, permitting, and certification process. 

The governor’s office stated in a press release that the review is a critical step in Shapiro’s mission to “make government work efficiently and effectively for Pennsylvania residents and businesses.” 

The review catalogued 750 licenses, 800 permits, and 360 certifications. The governor’s office reported that a catalogue of permits, licenses, and certifications in Pennsylvania had not been previously assembled. 

“Pennsylvanians work hard to keep our economy moving, and the commonwealth should work just as hard to process their applications,” Shapiro said in a statement. 

The collective of PA chambers of commerce and businesses stated that while Pennsylvania’s potential to lead the region and even the nation economically is “tremendous,” it has often trailed other states when it comes to investment. A key reason for this is a permitting system deemed “inadequate” by the collective. 

“The current process takes too long, lacks transparency, and costs businesses money and good-paying jobs for our state’s workers,” the letter stated. 

PA chambers and businesses supported the executive action taken regarding permitting and encouraged the Shapiro Administration and General Assembly to “work collectively, build on executive orders and improved management, and enact durable and lasting reforms to the state’s permitting process.” 

Phillips-Hill said the tracking system will include processing time, dates of each permit, completeness review, technical review, elevated review, an estimated time for incomplete phases of the permit approval process, and a contact person assigned to answer questions about the application process. 

“This will allow for greater transparency, which gives those individuals who are applying for permits, more peace of mind and assurance that they have not been forgotten in the process,” she said. “We must reform this process to help businesses and business owners throughout the Commonwealth.” 

PA chambers and businesses said this is the time to rally around reforms that allow Pennsylvania to compete and lead. 

“Doing so will build upon bipartisan momentum at the federal level to streamline permitting and unlock American investment,” they wrote. “We have a generational opportunity to meaningfully change the economic trajectory of our state and communities.”

Pa. closes 2022 with strong December revenue, budget surplus

Pennsylvania collected $4 billion in General Fund Revenue in December 2022, which was $319.9 million more than anticipated, Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Revenue announced Tuesday. 

Collections for the fiscal year-to-date General Fund total $19.7 billion, $503.1 million above the estimate. 

Wolf said in a statement that Pennsylvania is in a strong fiscal position heading into 2023. “Year to date, we are 2.6 percent above our estimated revenue collections, which means we have $503.1 million in the bank above and beyond what we expected. That’s money that can be used to better support the people of Pennsylvania in the coming year, and I look forward to seeing what the new administration and the General Assembly will accomplish on behalf of Pennsylvanians.” 

Pennsylvania was operating with a $2-3 billion budget deficit when Wolf took office eight years ago, and the Rainy Day Fund was just $231,800. Pennsylvania ended the most recent fiscal year with $5.537 billion in the General Fund, and an investment of more than $5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. 

Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell noted it was only a couple years ago that Pennsylvania was dealing with a $3.2 billion shortfall at the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year. “Fortunately, we are facing a much different situation today — and that is very much a testament to the strong fiscal management of Gov. Wolf. Pennsylvanians should be encouraged that we are on such solid financial footing as the Governor closes out his term.” 

Wolf said the goal of his administration has been to build a strong foundation for Pennsylvania so that government can invest in the things that improves the lives of Pennsylvanians, including an historic $3.7 billion investment in education. 

“The strong fiscal foundation that my administration has built will empower the next administration and the General Assembly to continue making life-changing investments in the people of Pennsylvania in the years to come.” 


Most of the surplus in December is attributable to personal income tax revenue that was deposited on the first day of the month, rather than on the last day of November, as initially expected. Sales tax receipts totaled $1.2 billion for December, which was $2.3 million below estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $7.1 billion, $134.8 million more than anticipated. 


Personal income tax (PIT) revenue in December was $1.4 billion, $204.9 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $7.5 billion, which is $27.1 million above estimate. 


December corporation tax revenue of $1 billion was $116.3 million above estimate. Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $2.7 billion, $328.7 million above estimate. 


Inheritance tax revenue for the month was $138.0 million, $6.1 million above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $725.7 million, $16.3 million below estimate. Realty transfer tax revenue was $55.8 million for December, $23.3 million below estimate, bringing the fiscal-year total to $351.9 million, $26.7 million less than anticipated. 


Other General Fund tax revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor, and gaming taxes, totaled $174.2 million for the month, $5.1 million below estimate and bringing the year-to-date total to $939.6 million, $32.5 million below estimate. Non-tax revenue totaled $55.5 million for the month, $23.3 million above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $346.7 million, $88 million, above estimate. 


In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $203.0 million for the month, $8.2 million above estimate. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund – which include gas and diesel taxes, as well as other license, fine and fee revenues – total $1.4 billion, $25 million above estimate.

PA working families to benefit from new child care tax credit

To help ease child care costs for working families, the Wolf Administration and General Assembly is investing $25 million in the new child care tax credit program. 

The program is designed to benefit working families with children in child care who qualify for the federal child and dependent tax credit. In Pennsylvania, more than 220,000 received the federal credit, and it is expected that the same amount of families will qualify for the new state tax credit. 

The credit can be claimed beginning in 2023 when filing state taxes. It is refundable, meaning state taxes will not be owed by qualified families on the amount received. 

The average tax credit is estimated to be $171, but the amount received will be income-based. Pennsylvanians paying for child care services could be eligible for the following credits: 

  • $180 (one child) or $360 (two or more children) for households earning above $43,000 or 
  • $315 (one child) or $630 (two or more children) for households earning less than $43,000. 

“As a parent, I know first-hand that high-quality, affordable child care is invaluable to parents, kids, and families,” said Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead, who recently visited the Carlisle Early Education Center (CEEC) to meet with child care center staff and providers. 

“I want to thank child care providers like Carlisle Early Education Center because the care and learning opportunities they provide are essential to helping children across Pennsylvania grow and thrive.” 

Children can be kept out of early learning programs and parents out of the workforce due to the rising cost of child care. The average annual cost of infant care in Pennsylvania is nearly $12,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. To combat costs, new Child and Dependent Care Enhancement Program is included in the Wolf Administration’s 2022-23 state budget. The program is modeled after the federal child and dependent tax credit. 

Children who learn in high-quality child care and Pre-K programs perform better in school and are more likely to graduate, according to studies. Studies also show that high-quality early learning programs help students develop the emotional and social skills needed to succeed in school and life. 

Individuals interested in locating licensed child care programs in Pennsylvania can visit www.findchildcare.pa.gov. Families who are having difficulty finding a provider or who  are lower income and need assistance paying for child care can contact their local Early Learning Resource Center at www.raiseyourstar.org. 

State grant will be used to rehab blighted properties in York

A $280,000 grant through the state’s Blight Remediation Program will be used to rehabilitate seven deteriorating properties in the City of York.

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, a Democrat who represents York in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, said the project will help address a shortage of affordable housing in the city.

“With funds like these, we can drive targeted investments that have real return and make a difference in the lives of our friends, families and neighbors,” she said in a release.

The money was awarded to the Redevelopment Authority of York to purchase the rundown homes, stabilize them and return them to resale condition.

“This award goes a long way in keeping local tax costs down, as we grow our communities block by block,” Hill-Evans said.

Four of the houses have “created a row of blight” on Penn Street, a major artery between York College and historic downtown York, the release said.

Cost of the project is $330,000, with the City of York supplying $30,000 in partial matching funds.

Wolf Administration and General Assembly form COVID-19 vaccine task force

A joint task force that includes members of the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration was empaneled and is expected to help the state streamline how it communicates vaccine information and issues.

Announced by Gov. Tom Wolf, task force members will represent the viewpoints of their caucus while members of the Wolf Administration will act as subject matter experts to provide answers and suggestions to problems, according to the Wolf administration.

Task force members are Alison Beam, acting Secretary of Health; Randy Padfield, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency; Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery and Philadelphia; Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna; Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster; and Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington.

“We have a good working relationship with our legislators, and we know they are the eyes, ears, and voices for Pennsylvanians,” said Wolf. “The feedback they receive from their local communities is extremely important, particularly as the commonwealth continues to improve upon this once-in-a-generation vaccine rollout. Working with leaders from each caucus in the General Assembly, we are creating a task force to ensure collaboration and strengthen communications about the state’s vaccine plan.”

House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, applauded Wolf’s attempt to improve collaboration and communication between the General Assembly and his administration as the two bodies work to distribute more vaccines.

“Vaccine distribution must be the top priority for all levels of state government at this time,” Cutler said. “We have reached a critical moment in our battle to defeat the virus, and every misstep at this time is a delay that could result in additional harms.”

Updating liquor laws, AirBnB loopholes and finance reform in view for upcoming assembly session

The Pennsylvania General Assembly will reconvene Jan. 7 with a slate of bills tabled from 2019. Among lawmakers’ chief concerns are updating statewide alcohol regulations, amending supposed tax loopholes for short-term rentals and reducing government asset risk.

Liquor Laws  

In an effort to update the state’s “archaic” alcohol regulations, legislators posed bills that would lighten constraints on alcohol usage and increase consumer protection. One would double the amount of wine private retailers with a restaurant or hotel liquor license and a Wine Extended Permit would be authorized to sell for off-premise consumption from 3,000 ml to 6,000 ml.

House bill 1512 would repeal the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) flexible pricing provision and replace it with consumer protection from runaway liquor prices. Originally touted by the board to “price its best-selling items and limited purchase items in a manner that maximizes the return on the sale of those items,” flexible pricing is not constrained by the marketplace nor anti-trust laws, said state Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, who sponsors the bill.

Topper proposes a return to proportional pricing, which he says required the PLCB to pass any savings onto the consumer if suppliers discounted their prices.

AirBnB and other short term-rental companies

Having already passed the House during the 2018-19 session by a vote of 177-14, the bill proposing a mandatory state registry for AirBnB rentals already has widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans.

The legislation aims to close a tax loophole allegedly exploited by short-term rental hosts to avoid paying state and county taxes. Meanwhile, all standard facilities providing overnight accommodation are required to collect state and county taxes from customers.

Sponsor state Rep. Doyle Heffley said his legislation would collect taxes from short-term rentals to ensure standard hotels and bed and breakfasts are not at a disadvantage.

“Some ‘hosts’ (as Airbnb calls them) are not aware of their obligation to collect state and county hotel taxes, or are ignoring it,” Heffley, R-Wiessport in Carbon County, told House colleagues in a memo earlier in 2019. “It is the job of state and county taxing authorities to make theses hosts aware of their obligation to collect the tax from their patrons.”

Finance reform

House bills 882 through 885 — sponsored by a GOP coalition of four representatives — would institute a comprehensive municipal debt reform to asses risk factors related to municipal debt to ease the burden on taxpayers.

“The 2008 financial crisis in the United States and the continued concern about instability in municipal financing in other states as well as in the commonwealth requires a fresh look at the controls, processes and governance relating to municipal debt so that the risk factors influencing municipalities are known and contained,” Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Carlisle, wrote in a memo to House colleagues.

In coordination with the four sponsors, Rep. Francis X. Ryan, R-Palmyra, sponsored a bill to restrict government entities from entering into interest rate management agreements, also known as swaps or derivatives, because they lead the government to potentially assume risks that could amount to a burden on taxpayers.