It’s budget time in Harrisburg.
Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce set the table for a state budget and services update to area business and community members in its second of three legislative breakfasts held April 12 at McCoole’s Arts & Events Place in Quakertown.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed $34.2 billion spending plan does not increase the Personal Income Tax (PIT) or state sales tax. The budget is about 2.8 percent, or roughly $927 million over last year’s, said state Rep. Craig Staats (R-Bucks).
Staats was joined by State Senators Bob Mensch (R-24th district) and Steve Santarsiero (D-10th district).
Spurring economic growth is a “hot topic” not just in local gathering spots, business meetings or around dinner tables, but in the Harrisburg Rotunda, too.
Staats said reducing Pennsylvania’s corporate income tax was a top priority “if we want to be competitive,” Staats said.
Pennsylvania’s 9.99 percent tax levy is among the highest state corporate income tax rates in the nation, Staats said. The proposed reduction to 8.99 percent, with incremental decreases to the tax in future budgets, is a start.
Staats believes reducing the corporate income tax is a key to attracting new and retaining existing businesses and investment.
Another impact to the commonwealth’s growth is a proposal to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 per hour, with incremental increases to $15 per hour over time.
So far the hourly increase doesn’t seem popular with tip workers, who currently earn about $2.83 per hour and make up the difference in tips, earned either table-side or from bartending, he said.
Santarsiero said he supported increasing the minimum wage, but it shouldn’t be seen as a policy to spur economic growth.
“From the state level there needs to be investment” in public education and greater tuition relief to attend college along with a fresh approach to funding it. Funding schools with property taxes is a burden on property owners… [and it] hurts economic growth,” Santarsiero said.
He said the state could take an active role in supporting career paths other than four-year college educations, which often leave students saddled with heavy debt.
“We have to get past this idea that every kid has to go to college,” Santarsiero said.
Pennsylvania spends about 80 percent of its budget on education and human services, Staats said.
Legislators are also considering a proposal for a sliding fee scale to help fund municipal state police coverage to those without local police departments.
A drop off of emergency medical services or EMS volunteers, which include ambulance and fire departments, are a state-wide concern amid a declining trend of fewer recruits.
Mensch said state and local government as well as the business community needed to explore ways to make volunteering with EMS and fire departments attractive once more.
“In 1970 there were 300,000 firefighters, and today there are [about] 38,000,” Mensch said.
The third and final legislative breakfast series concludes May 31 with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick offering the “State of the Nation”. Fitzpatrick is a Republican Congressman serving Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district. For information visit www.ubcc.org/events.
Did you know Bucks County will spend about $432.64 million this year to run the county and provide services to residents and businesses?
In the first of three annual legislative breakfast meetings held at McCoole’s Arts and Events Place in Quakertown business, municipal and non-profit leaders gathered for the annual Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce series kick-off.
Reducing budget deficits while maximizing resources and providing public health and welfare resources to those in the greatest need praising volunteerism were among the topics at the “State of the County” address lead by Bucks County Commissioners March 29.
Commissioner Rob Loughery provided the budget big picture and said no county tax increase would be levied to make up a $1.23 million shortfall.
Money from the fund balance would offset the revenue difference, Loughery said.
“People don’t realize how big it is - it’s a big budget, nearly half a billion dollars,” he said.
Volunteerism is alive and well across Bucks County, with county employees offering their off time hours to help others.
“Government employees often get a bad rap, but our employees do extra things,” Ellis Marseglia said.
She said Bucks County Deputy Sheriff Gary Bruno started a small Uber revolution during winter storms, by offering free rides to AA and other substance use disorder support groups.
Bruno is a part-time Uber driver. A single free ride – offered by Bruno to a man struggling to get to a support meeting because of the weather – spread like wildfire when Bruno encourage other Uber drivers to do the same.
A network of community drivers stepped up to help.
Ellis Marseglia noted the efforts or another employee who makes sure those with special needs have display space for their art as well as one who offers kindly residents at Neshaminy Manor in Warrington.
And a drug and alcohol treatment program at Bucks County Prison has become a model for other facilities helping substance use disorder inmates receive recovery treatment.
“I get letters from people who have said they got better treatment here [in prison] than they did in rehab,” Ellis Marseglia said.
The program offers an intense recovery environment for about 52 men and 25 women at a time.
Commissioner Charles H. “Charley” Martin reflected at the county’s change during his past 24 years of service. Martin will not seek re election.
A few notable milestones:
Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce appreciates our Bucks County Commissioners taking time to address our members and spending quality time in Upper Bucks with us!
The next legislative event in the series, “State of the State,” will be held April 12th at McCoole’s Arts and Events Place in Quakertown. UBCC will be hosting Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Representative Craig Staats (R-145). Please visit www.ubcc.org/events to register.
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