|House Readies for 2017-18 Budget Address
The House and Senate will convene in a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to hear Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal for the third year of his administration.
In a preview of his address, Wolf has pledged not to ask for an increase in the state’s sales or incomes taxes. He is also seeking to consolidate four state agencies – the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs – into one Department of Health and Human Services.
Lawmakers will be looking to study the details of such a proposal, along with other ways the state can save taxpayer money and fund core functions of government in the most efficient ways possible.
For the past several years, the House has been able to meet budgetary needs while not relying on increases in broad-based taxes.
To watch the governor’s address live, log onto pahousegop.com/
beginning at 11:30 a.m. The address is expected to begin closer to noon.
Enhancing Educational Opportunities
Legislation to enhance educational opportunities by allowing families to better choose the educational paths for their children has been introduced as House Bill 250.
The legislation would increase the amount of tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $50 million (to $175 million) and the amount of tax credits available under the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program by $25 million (to $75 million).
Both programs are proven successes in the ability for private entities to donate toward approved scholarship programs. The EITC Program targets scholarship organizations, educational improvement organizations, and pre-kindergarten scholarship programs, while the OSTC program dedicates tax credits toward businesses that contribute to scholarship programs aimed specifically at students trapped in underperforming schools.
While the General Assembly constantly seeks to improve academic outcomes for all children, the OSTC program provides critical educational opportunities for students who desperately need the chance to succeed.
The legislation is now with the House Education Committee.
Tax Refunds Can Help Families Save for College
Pennsylvania taxpayers can deposit their state income tax refund directly into an existing, tax-exempt Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program account. With the new option, all or a portion of a refund can be sent to one or multiple accounts.
When a taxpayer completes the PA-40, Personal Income Tax Return, he or she should enter code “H” and the amount in the donation section between lines 32-36. Additionally, a taxpayer can submit a PA-Schedule P with the return when donating to one or more Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program accounts. More information is available in the 2016 PA-40, Personal Income Tax Return Instructions.
Pennsylvanians can open an account with as little as $15 or $25 depending on plan selection. Contributions are tax exempt, and when using plan withdrawals for qualified educational expenses, they are not subject to tax.
More than 200,000 people are currently saving more than $4 billion in the PA 529 College Savings Program, which provides two ways to save: the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP). The primary difference is the way the savings grow in each account.
Visit PA529.com or call (800) 440-4000 to open or contribute to a PA 529 account.
PennDOT’s 2017 Summer Employment Program
PennDOT is sponsoring an extensive Summer Employment Program (SEP) which includes government services interns. The program runs April through August to supplement the permanent workforce.
The government services interns are used primarily for summer maintenance and sign upgrade services, and they perform laboring duties in maintenance organizations as well as worksites along the highway.
To be eligible for consideration, candidates must be enrolled as a full-time college student for fall 2017 and have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. The hourly rate is $12.97.
If interested, apply online at employment.pa.gov under the “Summer Employment Positions” category. The technical support line is 717-787-5703.
The deadline to apply is Friday, Feb. 10.
My Audio Podcast
I am recording audio Legislative Report podcasts on a periodic basis. You can listen to them by clicking on the Audio Podcast link above the headline in this email, and all future ones.
All podcasts are on my website as well at RepDowling.com. Just click on the audio section in the left column.