Blake Announces Online Petition to Save SCI Waymart

CARBONDALE, January 17, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that he has started an online petition on his website to save the operations at SCI Waymart, which is one of five state prisons being considered for closure.

The petition, located at www.senatorblake.com/SaveSCIWaymart, will be forwarded to Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel with the names of all signees prior to the final announcement of which two prisons will be closed on January 26.

“I remain committed to doing all I can as a state Senator to protect the jobs, operations and the regional economic impact of SCI Waymart.  With all of the feedback my office has been receiving, however, I thought it would be important to solicit public input that could be shared with the Wolf Administration voicing our collective support to retain our current correctional institutions.” Blake said. “I encourage everyone who has friends or family employed at SCI Waymart or vendors who do business with the facility to sign our petition and ensure that the voices of the people in northeastern Pennsylvania are heard on this important issue.”

Earlier today, Blake toured SCI Waymart and met with employees and management of the facility.

“I had the opportunity to tour SCI Waymart earlier today and discussed their specialized operations with some of the most dedicated and talented corrections employees in the Commonwealth,” Blake added. “While I certainly appreciate the Wolf administration’s efforts to address the significant fiscal constraints in our state budget, decisions about our corrections facilities are public safety issues.  I do not believe that the consequences of closing any state prison have been fully vetted. I look forward to continuing our coordinated efforts to protect family-sustaining jobs in our communities. 

Blake said that he will be participating in a Town Hall Meeting tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. at the Carbondale Grand Hotel and Conference Center. The meeting will also be attended by a host of elected officials, Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) representatives and local corrections workers.

“While I am confident that operations at SCI Waymart are too specialized to be successfully replicated elsewhere in our corrections system, it is important that we continue to voice our support for these workers and to protect the substantial regional economic impact of the prison,” Blake added. ”I also look forward to continuing public dialogue on this important matter in our town hall meeting in Carbondale and at upcoming Senate committee hearings.”

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Democratic Policy Committee Discusses Human Service Funding with Area Providers

SCRANTON, May 16, 2012 – – Members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today met area human service providers at Lackawanna College to discuss current public policy issues and the adverse effect a proposed 20 percent state funding reduction would have on the people they serve.

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) said the committee has been gathering input from providers and advocates throughout the state on the impact the Governor’s proposed budget will have upon their ability to continue to provide adequate services in their communities.

“This is a great opportunity for committee members and service providers alike to share ideas and continue the discussion about what their policy and funding needs are,” Boscola said. “It is imperative that the legislature continues to fight for programs and services that are proven successful, especially for the people who need our help the most.”

Last week, the Senate passed an updated version of the state’s 2012-13 spending plan that would increase state funding to human service providers by $84 million over Gov. Corbett’s initial budget proposal.

State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) spoke about how the continued budget cuts not only affect local social service organizations, but also the levels of service they can provide to individuals and their families who rely so heavily on quality services from providers in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“It was very important for my Senate colleagues to visit my district and hear entreaties from our local human service providers about the challenges they are facing on the front lines with limited resources and increased demand,” Blake said. “As we work towards a final state budget, we must be diligent in our negotiations so that those who need our help the most, including seniors, persons with intellectual disabilities and autism, and those struggling with their health or mental illness, are able to receive the care and support they deserve.”

Also participating in the discussion, state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe) said that the legislature “must be mindful of the human impact and the negative consequences of reducing funding to programs that are an essential lifeline to families and individuals across the Commonwealth.”

Participants told the Senators about their current struggles to keep pace with the increasing demand for their services and the significant risk of reducing state support any further.

“The proposed budget cuts, even at the 10 percent level, would put many programs and services that we and others provide in serious jeopardy and if these programs go—they’re gone,” William P. Conaboy, President, Allied Services Health Integration System said. “A lot of these programs will be in jeopardy and these are programs that we need more than ever.”

Gary Drapek, President, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties echoed those concerns.

“There has been no other time where we need the state’s help more than we do now – — and it feels like the rug is being pulled out from under us,” Drapek said. “This is about more than lines and numbers on a spread sheet, there are real lives and real people being affected.”

Other participants in the roundtable discussion included representatives from the Women’s Resource Center, The ARC of Northeastern PA, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, Allied Services Health Integration System, United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern PA, Northeast PA Center for Independent Living, and the Lackawanna-Susquehanna Behavioral Health, Intellectual Disabilities, Early Intervention Program.

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Senate Democrats Roll Out Billion Dollar Job Creation Plan

HARRISBURG – September 26 – State Senate Democrats today unveiled their revised job creation plan, called “PA Works Now,” which they claim would create 80,000 new jobs and leverage billions in private investment to generate jobs and economic activity. 

State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said job creation is the number one priority for this fall’s session of the General Assembly.   He added that the PA Works Now package does not require new broad based taxes, is fully paid for and does not put additional strain on the state General Fund.

“PA Works Now features a new investment vehicle called the Pennsylvania Investment Bank that will quickly pump $1.2 billion into the economy and create jobs,” Costa said.  “Our goal is to jump start the economy and create new jobs in the shortest possible time.

“Job creation is the most important issue lawmakers must tackle this fall.” 

The Democrats’ plan includes renewed investment in job-producing programs and public works such as water and sewer projects as well as money for new business investments.  The plan also provides a new round of capital infusion for the state Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund and would establish Pennsylvania’s version of the successful “Georgia Works” on-the-job training program.

The Pennsylvania Investment Bank would target more than $1.2 billion for water and sewer system reconstruction, new business investment and other public works.  The bank would capture funds generated from existing borrowing capacity.  The bank would use $500 million in Commonwealth Finance Authority dollars plus a half-billion from PENNVEST (Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority). 

The investment bank would also utilize $80 million in funds from a proposed Marcellus Shale tax or fee along with surplus state revenues.  Democrats estimate that these sources would generate $180 million.

“There are so many workers who are looking for jobs and even more who are worried about what is next for them in this very difficult economic recovery,” Costa said.  “Our comprehensive PA Works Now plan addresses job creation and presents an opportunity to move our economy forward.”

Democrats said action is needed now on their job creation plan because of the recent increase in unemployment.  Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate spiked by nearly a half percent from July to August – rising to 8.2 percent.  Since May, the number of unemployed Pennsylvanians grew by 45,000. 

Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) decried the alarming increase in unemployment and the inaction of both the Corbett Administration and Republican lawmakers who control floor action in both the state House and Senate.

“The Corbett Administration has failed to respond to the hardship in the labor market in any discernable way,” Hughes said.  “The administration is either tone-deaf to the plight of the unemployed or focusing on political wedge issues that do not create jobs.  They’ve produced no new jobs plan.

“The priorities of the administration are skewed,” Hughes said.  

Hughes criticized Corbett and Republicans for focusing on changing the apportionment of electoral votes, English-only legislation and voter ID legislation.  These issues interest only “politicos on the extreme political fringe of the Republican Party. These proposals do nothing to help our economy grow,” Hughes said. 

“We are stuck debating issues that appeal to the political extreme at the expense of working families,” Hughes said.  “Working men and women need jobs.  They don’t need political talk.  That is a sham and it’s a shame.”

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said the state has lost an opportunity to reverse negative economic trends.  She noted that the recent business downturn has had a disproportionate impact on educators, women, minorities and Pennsylvania’s youth. 

According to Schwank, the Corbett budget cuts have put several thousand educators or school staff out of work.  The Berks county lawmaker said Senate Democrats will soon flesh-out a package of bills that would specifically help women, minorities and young people find jobs.

“Failing to take action now condemns those who have a difficulty getting jobs in a robust economy – women, minorities and our youth – to even deeper despair when the labor market contracts,” Schwank said.  “Doing nothing on job creation is not an answer and it’s not fair.  That’s why we need to work on a jobs plan like PA Works Now.”

Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), who previously served as secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said PA Works Now would inject much-needed capital into business investment and job creation programs.  He said doing so is essential toward generating economic activity and employment opportunities now. 

“There is no question that our recovery from the recession is soft,” Blake said.  “The state has a responsibility to incent private sector investment for job growth.”

Costa, Hughes, Schwank and Blake were joined by a host of Senate Democratic colleagues at the Capitol news conference. 

Senate Democrats unveiled a previous version of PA Works earlier this year. 

Senators who attended today’s news conference included Democratic Whip Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Chairman Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette/Somerset), Caucus Secretary Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Administrator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) and state Sens. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery), John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Monroe/Carbon) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington/Greene).

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Blake Announces Free Webinar on Saving for College

HARRISBURG, September 23, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today announced that he will partner with the Pennsylvania Treasury to host an informational “Saving for College with the PA 529 College Savings Program” webinar on Tuesday, September 27 at 6 p.m.

“A college education has become a prerequisite of sorts for employment and the PA 529 College Savings Program is a fantastic way for families to begin saving,” Blake said.  “The webinar will hopefully answer many of the questions you have about this program and about planning for the future of your children and their higher education aspirations.”

The webinar will give participants an opportunity to Learn about 529 plan basics, including the tax benefits, financial aid impact, and setting savings goals and have your questions answered by a program specialist.

For more information and to sign up for the webinar, visit www.senatorblake.com

The Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program offers two plans and many investment options that have helped over 150,000 families of all income levels answer one of their biggest financial concerns – how to afford college.

Blake Joins Colleagues to Announce Flood Relief Legislation

Sen Blake speaks at flood relief news conference

HARRISBURG, September 19, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today joined a bipartisan group of state senators to announce a legislative package aimed at helping Pennsylvania residents recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

“The amount of damage caused and the number of lives affected by this catastrophe is overwhelming,” Blake said. “I knew, and my colleagues knew, that we needed to step up to try to help those families who lost so much in these recent flooding events. This package of bills will supplement the considerable amount of federal aid already making its way to flood victims and make available much-needed state assistance so that families, small businesses and entire communities within federally declared disaster areas can begin to recover.  We are hopeful for swift passage of this bipartisan legislative package.”

In Blake’s 22nd legislative district, the Borough of Duryea was devastated by record flooding surpassing the levels of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. While the river has receded, the cleanup and rebuilding process is only now beginning.  The destruction in Duryea was so extensive that Vice President Joe Biden visited Chittenden Street to tour the damage and speak with residents.

Blake commended Duryea Mayor Keith Moss; the PA National Guard; local Emergency Management personnel; and the hundreds of volunteers who came out to assist their neighbors in need.  He also noted that due to Duryea flooding, the Lower Lackawanna Sanitary Authority, servicing 35,000 residents from six municipalities, was still without full operating power as of this morning and students from Holy Rosary School in Duryea remain at St. Mary’s School in Avoca.

The package of legislation announced at today’s news conference included bills that would:

  • establish a restricted account in the State Treasury to provide additional state grant monies to individuals and families based on income eligibility and damage losses;
  • authorize $250 million for the state share of flood-related highway and bridge rehabilitation projects;
  • allow local taxing bodies to abate real estate taxes for properties substantially affected by the flood;
  • authorize a county-by-county list of highway, bridges, flood control and hazard mitigation projects for state Capital Budget funding; and
  • give the Secretary of Education the authority to waive certain requirements for public and non-public schools substantially damaged by the flood.

Blake was joined at the news conference by Senators John Yudichak (D-Plymouth Township), John Gordner (R- Berwick), Lisa Baker (R-Lehman Township) and Gene Yaw (R-Loyalsock Township).