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2018-19 Budget Prioritizes Education, School Safety

Senator Blake Comments on 2018-19 State Budget
Watch Senator Blake's Comments
on 2018-19 State Budget

I am very proud of the bipartisan work and compromise that enabled us to achieve an on-time and responsible state budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The $32.7 billion budget accords priority to all levels of our educational system from pre-k through higher education and made it a priority to enhance and improve the safety in our schools.

The budget incorporates major investments in education, workforce development, human relations and health care. Most importantly, we fought to include a $100 million increase in basic education; a $20 million increase in Pre-K Counts program; a $30 million increase in career and technical education as part of the PA SMART Initiative; a $15 million increase in special education; a $21.6 million increase in Early Intervention; a nearly $7 million increase to community colleges; and a $15 million increase to our state-owned universities.

This budget importantly includes $60 million to fund public school and community safety measures and $10 million for school safety grants available to schools to hire school police or resource officers or to buy safety equipment. It is important that the Commonwealth continues allocating resources to our schools and our communities to enhance safety measures and school safety strategies.

Additionally, this budget takes steps to better connect our schools to our business community by funding important career readiness and job training initiatives including the creation of a new $7 million apprenticeship training program through PA SMART.

I applaud my colleagues on the Senate Democratic leadership team, Governor Wolf and Republican leaders for their work to reach a bipartisan compromise well in advance of the June 30 budget deadline.

Click here for more information on the 2018-19 state budget.

Clean Energy, Job Creation Bill Signed into Law

Very proud to have our clean energy, economic development legislation, Senate Bill 234, signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf as Act 30 of 2018.  Senate Bill 234 establishes Pennsylvania’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program which is a financing mechanism that enables low-cost, long-term funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation upgrades to commercial, agricultural or industrial properties.

Presently, the upfront cost of installing energy-efficient or clean energy technology can be prohibitive. Our legislation provides a common sense, market-driven and voluntary solution to this problem – one that has proven to work across the United States and we are excited to see start here in Pennsylvania.

Under Senate Bill 234, a local government would be able to choose to participate in or develop a PACE financing program. PACE financing would not require public funds. Participating local communities would be tasked with collecting assessments on improved properties and remit them for payment to local lenders on debt incurred to pay for energy-efficiency and clean energy technology upgrades.

I have enjoyed working with my colleague Senator Guy Reschenthaler and wish to thank Governor Wolf for signing this bipartisan legislation into law. I look forward to working with our communities to begin implementing PACE in Pennsylvania.

2018 Student Ambassador Program Concludes

We had another great year with our incredibly bright class of Student Ambassadors from high schools across the 22nd District. From January through May, we met at locations across Lackawanna County to discuss all levels of government and to learn about our rich local history.

This is the fifth year of our Student Ambassador Program and I continue to be impressed by the quality of the students in our area schools and the work that they put into their projects. The Student Ambassador Program is a great opportunity for me to become informed about the issues and policies that matter most to our schools, our students and their families.

At the end of May, we held a for a legislative competition at Johnson College as the final event of the 2018 Student Ambassador Program.  The Student Ambassadors were tasked with putting themselves in the shoes of a state senator and proposing a new law or policy of interest to them regarding transportation, education, emergency preparedness, environmental protection or human services. Each presentation was scored by a panel of four judges on the substance of the proposal as well as on the strength of the argument.

The winner of the legislative competition for her presentation on school safety protocol was Priya Patel from Mid Valley. The other presentations in the top four, based on the cumulative scores of the judges, were by Scarlett Spager, Old Forge; Annie Yurgoski, Lakeland; and Joseph Norvilas, North Pocono.  Each of the four top scoring presentations received scholarship assistance for their post-secondary academic pursuits.

Thank you to Johnson College president Katie Leonard, Dr. Mike Allison, Professor and Chair of the University of Scranton Political Science Department; and Kyle Mullins for serving as judges for our competition.

Students interested in participating in the Student Ambassador Program next year can begin applying in the Fall.  All information related to the application can be obtained at their schools or by calling my office at 570-207-2881.

Around the District

I was glad to join Congressman Matt Cartwright, State Rep. Mike Carroll and the Spring Brook Township Board of Supervisors to dedicate their impressive new municipal garage. The garage is an outstanding facility for the community and I am proud to have worked with Rep. Carroll to advocate for the $412,000 state grant this project received in 2016.
It was a pleasure to introduce the state champion Abington Heights High School boys' basketball team on the Senate floor. The Comets captured their first PIAA state championship by defeating Mars Area High School in the Class 5A championship game in March. Congrats again to all of the members of the team and to Coach Ken Bianchi on a remarkable season!
   
I was honored to receive the 2018 Leadership Lackawanna Legacy Award. Leadership Lackawanna is an incredible professional development organization that continues to do great things in our community. Congratulations to Leadership Lackawanna on their 35th anniversary and to all of this year's graduates!
It was an honor to welcome the Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States, Rolandas Krisciunas, to Scranton. We had a wonderful discussion on the long, close relationship between our countries. Thank you to Bob Savakinus and Dr. Carol Gargan for coordinating the Ambassador's visit to Lackawanna County..
   

Coffee & Conversation

Since October of last year, we have been travelling around the 22nd District and meeting with constituents, local officials and business leaders as part of our Coffee & Conversation series. The monthly series gives me an opportunity to discuss regional and state issues and to hear about the issues important to your families and our communities.

We have held Coffee & Conversation events in Clarks Summit, Moosic, Duryea, Carbondale, Scranton and Dickson City. Our most recent event was held at Adezzo in downtown Scranton and afforded us an opportunity to discuss the state budget and the redistricting reforms circulating in the state Capitol.

We are always looking for suggestions for the next location of our Coffee & Conversation series. If you have a favorite local coffee shop, send us an email at senatorblake@pasenate.com.

Our next Coffee & Conversation event will be announced in the coming days on our Facebook and Twitter pages. I hope to see you at one of our upcoming events for a cup of coffee!

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline ExtendedProperty Tax Rent Rebate Program

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has recently extended the application deadline for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program to December 31, 2018. If you have already applied for this great program, the Department of Revenue will begin distributing rebate checks beginning July 2.

Rebates are available for property taxes or rent paid in 2017 for eligible residents age 65 and older, people 18 and older with disabilities and widows and widowers 50 and older.

Last year, nearly 600,000 seniors and people with disabilities benefited from the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. Keep in mind, half of your Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase the rebate to $975.

If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications can be obtained from my district office and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.

For more information and eligibility requirements for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, click here.

Public Immunization Clinic Coming to Monroe Co.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently announced that the Monroe County State Health Center will be conducting an Immunization Clinic on Wednesday, August 1 at the Mountain Center located at 354 Memorial Blvd. in Tobyhanna. The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. until noon and will offer uninsured or underinsured residents an opportunity to receive your vaccinations.

If you have questions regarding the Immunization Clinic or would like to schedule an appointment for August 1, call the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 570-424-3020.

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For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me through my website or on Facebook and Twitter.

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.