Update given on state budget at local town hall meeting
PICTURE ROCKS – A series of town hall meetings have been scheduled with Rep. Garth Everett (R-Muncy) to discuss current issues, legislation and mostly the general fund spending for Pennsylvania’s state budget.
Most of the budget is spent for pre-K through 12th grade education, he explained. “It is 38 percent of the budget. “Rural Pennsylvania has different issues,” he said compared to larger metropolitan areas. “37 percent is spent on health and human services, but we do not have much control over this.”
He spoke on some important legislative issues concerning the area such as increasing broadband to more of the remote areas. “High speed internet is nice to have in the home, but now it is a necessity.”
Medicaid is the largest part of human services and long term care for seniors, especially for those who have exhausted all of their assets. “It is a safety net program.” Everett feels seniors who qualify deserve those benefits.
Criminal justice is 8 percent and higher education is at 5 percent. Some felt this part of the budget should be changed as some higher learning institutions are losing money and enrollments and perhaps, funds could be used towards more technical schools for certifications and a more skilled workforce. “We have been borrowing money for long term projects but are continuing to shrink that.”
All other spending is at 9 percent which includes Agriculture, DEP, DCNR, Judiciary, State Police, and legislature.
Everett said they are projecting a small surplus this year and will put some money aside “for a rainy day fund.” It will carry forward for the next year.
Ron Snell of Plunketts Creek Township asked, “Will increases keep up with inflation?” “Yes, but not pensions,” informed Everett to a small group of about 30 present.
Pension reform became a big topic of discussion and financing for school districts. There is a total deficit of 85 billion accrued for already retired pensions and those still working according to Everett. New employees will have a contribution plan of which he supports.
Law enforcement, another topic, and opioid prescriptions are now being regulated more due to a registry established for pharmacies. “Urgent care can also check into the system to see the amount of prescriptions given out.” More money needs to be set aside for treatment facilities, he said.
60 million has been spent this year for school safety due to the school shootings that took place recently. In October districts can apply for extra funding to make their schools safer.
Alcohol distribution was another topic of interest. Everett said, “It is confusing here to purchase beer and wine.”
Tax reform became another controversial issue. Some are for raising the state tax and reducing or eliminating property taxes. “It hurts senior citizens the most,” Everett said regarding the property taxes and favors increasing the sales tax.
Reducing regulations for small businesses and making Pennsylvania more attractive for them was another point of interest and led to a discussion for resources for law enforcement officials and state police. “They are having a hard time recruiting,” he said. There used to be a waiting list, but many retirements are making it more difficult.
Finally flooding from the heavy rains was a major concern as one member pointed out the debris left in streams still there that requires major clean-up. Everett said emergency permits are available from DEP for property owners within the first 30 days after flooding. Glenn Brandis of Glen Mawr said, “We have serious creek issues.”
The 84th district is comprised of 1100 square miles and 62,000 people. Revenues have come back up since the recession.
Another town hall meeting is set for Trout Run this week and next Monday at Jersey Shore.