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22 News & Views from State Senator John Blake

Gov. Wolf Visits Mid Valley School District to Discuss Education Funding

I was very proud to welcome Governor Tom Wolf to Lackawanna County earlier this month.  I was also very proud to stand with him at Mid Valley School District to discuss state budget issues which have such a tremendous impact on the administrators, teachers and, most importantly, the students of Mid Valley – and indeed, on all of the school districts located in my Senatorial District.

Under state budgets enacted over the past four years – each of which I voted against – K through 12 public education funding from the state declined by $1 billion; 20,000 teachers or school district personnel lost their jobs across this state; class sizes went up; test scores went down; Pennsylvania went from 8th to 50th nationally in job creation; and our bond rating was downgraded four times by capital markets' rating agencies costing PA taxpayers an additional $135 million per year in debt service payments.

Governor Wolf was elected in a landslide victory on a statewide ballot.  He has listened to the citizens of this state and he is fighting and standing strong for them on the issues they believe to be most important:  public school funding; property tax relief; responsible state and local pension reform; and a reasonable severance tax on the natural gas industry.  The Governor came to Harrisburg to govern, to lead and to ensure Pennsylvania escapes the mediocrity and mismanagement of the past four years.  He is trying to restore fiscal responsibility so Pennsylvania can once again be proud, competitive and a model for the nation in education and job growth.
Sen. Blake speaks at Mid Valley School District

It is unfortunate that our school districts and our human service providers continue to be held hostage by Harrisburg politics. In congruence and with understanding as to the hardships they are facing in this budget impasse, I ceased accepting my Senate salary since July 1st.  The governor and Senate Democrats remain ready and willing to negotiate a fair and honest state budget that adequately funds public education and human services; provides significant property tax relief for Pennsylvania homeowners; and enacts a reasonable severance tax on our natural gas industry.  This week I call on my Senate colleagues in the majority caucus not to recess the State Senate until a state budget is enacted and signed into law.

Thank you again to the Mid Valley School Board, Superintendent Patrick Sheehan, and the principals, teachers and students of Mid Valley for hosting us – and in particular, thanks to the Mid Valley Steel Band for their outstanding musical performance!

Blake Named 2015-16 East Stroudsburg University Legislative FellowSen. Blake named ESU Legislative Fellow

Earlier this month, I was deeply honored to join East Stroudsburg University President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D., my legislative colleagues and a number of university faculty, students and staff at an on-campus event announcing my appointment as their Legislative Fellow for the 2015-16 school year.

East Stroudsburg University is a world-class institution. I believe this program presents a great opportunity to establish a working relationship between legislators and our higher education community. It ensures that your state government continues to work on improving the academic experience of all students in the Commonwealth.

The East Stroudsburg University Legislative Fellow Program, established in 1999, is designed to bring state legislators to campus to participate in a variety of campus activities and to meet formally and informally with students, faculty and staff throughout the year.

The program is co-sponsored by the university administration and the local chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). Fellows are selected by a committee of faculty and administrators, and jointly appointed by the university president and the president of APSCUF at the beginning of each academic year.

Forum Conveys Overwhelming Support for NEPA to NYC Passenger Rail

Sen. Blake speaks at NEPA Rail ForumI want to express deep thanks to my good friend Congressman Matt Cartwright​ for facilitating an important discussion on the prospects for and the future of passenger rail transportation in NEPA. The forum was held at the Inn at Pocono Manor on October 13th​. Over 200 citizens and stakeholders came out to demonstrate their support for this project.

I believe that the restoration of passenger rail service between Northeastern Pennsylvania and the New York Metropolitan area can be the most impactful and transformative development in our region’s economy. Historically, the wealth of our region was built on the infrastructure connections we had to markets. We need a 21st century passenger rail connection that can improve the quality of life for our citizens; advance public safety; enhance environmental protection; and serve the mutual interests of the business community in this Commonwealth and in the New York Metropolitan region.

It is my hope that Governor Wolf and PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards will recognize the overwhelming support that exists for this initiative and that they commit to work with our partners at the federal level and at New Jersey Transit to move forward on another phase of this project. We may not be able to do the entire remaining length of this rail project from northern New Jersey to Scranton but if we take the project in increments to move the service west from New Jersey, we ultimately will achieve that final connection to the City of Scranton. As such, we need PennDOT to acknowledge the importance – and the priority -- of this project in its current Commonwealth of PA Rail Plan.

Around the District

Geisinger Legislative Panel

I was glad to join my colleagues on a legislative panel to discuss regional health issues and the future of health care as part of Geisinger Health System's Centennial Symposium.

Trooper Dickson Exit

It was an honor to join Governor Tom Wolf, Sen. Lisa Baker, dozens of Pennsylvania state troopers and the Dickson family to formally dedicate Exit 30 on I-84 in memory of Cpl. Bryon Dickson.

   
Sen. Blake speaks at Manufacturing Day

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the importance of manufacturing to our regional economy as part of NEPIRC's annual Manufacting Day celebration at PNC Field in Moosic.

Sen. Blake, Rep. Carroll and a number of Mid Valley Students

Rep. Mike Carroll and I had the pleasure of meeting a number of bright Mid Valley students prior to Gov. Wolf's news conference at the school district earlier this month.

   

Local Governments Can Apply Now for Multimodal Transportation GrantsPennDOT logo

When we passed the historic transportation funding package in 2013, we wanted to ensure that our investments in transportation projects across the Commonwealth would create jobs, stimulate regional economies and make travel safer for our commuters. The Multimodal Transportation Fundprovides that opportunity for our municipalities, local transportation agencies and business community by encouraging development and innovation to create a safe and efficient transportation network.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) started accepting applications for the $40 million available in Multimodal Transportation Fund grants for the coming fiscal year on October 3. The program is open to municipalities, counties, school districts, councils of government, businesses, non-profits, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, transportation management associations, ports or rail/freight entities.

Grants through the Multimodal Transportation Fund can be used for the development, rehabilitation and enhancement of transportation assets to existing communities including streetscape, lighting, sidewalk enhancement, pedestrian safety, connectivity of transportation assets and transit-oriented development. PennDOT will evaluate applicants based on safety benefits, regional economic conditions, the technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency, and operational sustainability.

Applications for multimodal grants are due by December 18 and PennDOT plans to announce the grant recipients in early 2016 for the funds that will be released in July 2016. For more information on the program, click here.

I encourage all local governments and businesses pursuing transportation improvement projects to apply for funding through the state’s Multimodal Transportation Fund.

LIHEAPLIHEAP Applications Accepted Starting November 2

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will begin accepting applications for Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, on Monday, November 2. LIHEAP is a great, federally-funded program that helps low-income residents pay for expensive heating bills during our frigid winter months.

To be eligible for LIHEAP, the maximum income level to qualify for heating assistance as a single person is $17,655. For two people, $23,895; three people, $30,135; four people, $36,375; and five people, $42,615.

Applications for the federally funded program will be accepted online at www.compass.state.pa.us beginning in November and will also be available at my district offices beginning November 2. Preseason applications for households that received LIHEAP last year are now being accepted. The deadline to apply for LIHEAP assistance is April 1, 2016. 

For more information on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, click here.

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Offices to Serve You

 

District Office
Oppenheim Building
409 Lackawanna Ave., Ste. 210
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 207-2881
Fax: (570) 207-2897
Toll free: 1-877-346-5721
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Harrisburg Office
Room 17 East Wing
The State Capitol
Senate Box 203022
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3022
Phone: (717) 787-6481
Fax: (717) 783-5198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.