SCRANTON, February 24, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake today hosted over 100 local and municipal officials at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in Scranton for his seventh annual legislative breakfast.
The wide-ranging discussion focused mostly on the $32.3 billion state budget proposed by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this month and how budget priorities and decisions will affect school districts and municipalities across northeastern Pennsylvania.
“The budget proposed by Governor Wolf is a function of dealing with both the fiscal and political realities facing the Commonwealth and represents a very strong starting position for our ongoing budget negotiations,” Blake said. “The Governor’s budget rightly proposes an increase in funding for all of our local school districts still feeling the pinch from the four years of insufficient funding under the previous administration. It is imperative that we continue working to increase the state’s share of funding a quality, public education.”
The Governor’s proposal includes new revenue from a new severance tax on natural gas extraction and proposes combined reporting for Pennsylvania businesses – both initiatives that have been supported by Senator Blake since taking office in 2011. Blake currently has legislation that would gradually reduce Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax and provide for a phased closing of the so-called Delaware Loophole by implementing mandatory combined reporting.
Blake also discussed the Governor’s proposed $25 per capita fee for 2.5 million Pennsylvanians who live in municipalities receiving full-time state police coverage. In the 22nd Senatorial District, seven municipalities rely solely on the Pennsylvania State Police for police coverage and would be subject to the fee.
“Due to budget pressures over the last handful of years, we have been forced to pull money from the Motor License fund – money supposed to be used to improve our roads and bridges – to pay for state police coverage,” Blake said. “There is a lot of contention on this issue, and I am a cosponsor of an alternative solution that would provide for a direct dollar-for-dollar exchange in relation to the actual cost of providing police coverage. We need to reduce reliance on the Motor License Fund while ensuring adequate support for our PA State Police to ensure public safety throughout the state.”
Blake noted that significant property tax reform was not discussed in the Governor’s budget address but it should be an important issue in our negotiations for a final state budget. Blake recently joined his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus to call for a special session of the General Assembly to address property tax reform or elimination.
“Property taxes are a significant burden for a large number of Pennsylvania families and something needs to be done – but in any solution, we need to ensure that we can continue to adequately and predictably fund our public education system,” Blake added. “The tax shift under certain property tax elimination proposals would be near $14 billion dollars – and would also let casinos, retailers and businesses off the hook. We need to be sure that any tax shift does not disproportionately burden working class Pennsylvanians.”
Looking ahead, Blake is hopeful that he can get final passage of his Senate Bill 234, the Property Assessed Clean Energy bill, which would establish a financing mechanism that enables low-cost, long-term funding for energy efficiency and water conservation upgrades at commercial or industrial properties.
“The PACE bill presents a win-win situation – it is market-driven and does not cost the taxpayers a dime,” Blake said. “Currently, 33 states authorize PACE financing for clean energy and energy efficiency projects and we are hopeful – that with nearly 25 cosponsors – our bill can reach the governor’s desk this session.”
Blake, who serves on the Senate Democratic Caucus leadership team in the role of Caucus Administrator of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that he hopes to reach a bipartisan agreement on a balanced state budget, pension reform and property tax reform.
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HARRISBURG, January 31, 2017 – State Sens. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington) today joined a diverse group of stakeholders from the business, labor and environmental communities to unveil their bipartisan legislation that would generate significant economic development, create jobs and enhance Pennsylvania’s clean energy portfolio.
Senate Bill 234 would establish 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 or industrial properties.
“The Property Assessed Clean Energy program is a proven-successful economic development tool that enhances property values and employment opportunities; lowers the cost of doing business; and expands the use of energy saving technologies,” Senator Blake said. “Our legislation would give Pennsylvania businesses an opportunity to make costly energy-saving upgrades with a creative, market-driven funding mechanism that does not spend a dime of taxpayer money.”
Under Senate Bill 234, PACE financing – which can be used to purchase new heating and cooling systems, lighting improvements, solar panels, water pumps and insulation – would be repaid in the form of a voluntary property tax assessment on the specific, improved building.
“PACE is a commonsense, voluntary program, that doesn’t cost taxpayers a penny. PACE increases the use of energy-saving and environmentally-conscious technology, saves businesses money, and will create family-sustaining jobs throughout the commonwealth because of sales and installations,” Senator Reschenthaler added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and the dozens of organizations that support the proposed PACE legislation.”
A local government would be able to choose to participate in or develop a PACE financing program. PACE financing would not require any public funds; participating local communities would be tasked with collecting the assessment on the improved building and remit it for payment on the debt incurred from the building’s energy-efficiency and clean energy technology upgrades.
“Commercial PACE programs advance energy conservation and clean energy projects that reduce pollution and promote clean air. Support for the programs is broad and bipartisan, for good reason,” David Masur, PennEnvironment Executive Director, said. “Through Senate Bill 234, Pennsylvania can join the growing ranks of states where successful Commercial PACE programs are helping to protect the environment and build healthier communities.”
Currently, 33 states plus the District of Columbia authorize PACE financing for clean energy and energy efficiency projects. Some of the states utilizing the PACE program include Alabama, California, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Texas.
“Commercial PACE is expanding across the country because it makes good business sense. Enabling commercial properties to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy will produce long-term energy savings and create local jobs,” Matt Elliot, Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance executive director, said. “We applaud Senator Blake and Senator Reschenthaler for their legislation to help Pennsylvania communities leverage the potential of commercial PACE.”
The legislation was introduced by Senator Blake in the prior legislative session as Senate Bill 1069 but it did not move from the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. Blake and Reschenthaler, both members of the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee in the current legislative session, are confident that the bill will receive full Senate consideration in the current session.
“We applaud the efforts of Senator Blake and Senator Reschenthaler to reduce energy use in Pennsylvania’s commercial and industrial buildings,” Dewitt Walton, Special Assistant to the International President of the United Steelworkers, added. “PACE will create good jobs with family supporting wages and benefits, provide a boost for areas of the state that have faced economic challenges and help workers seeking careers in new and emerging industries.”
For more information on the PACE initiative nationally, visit www.pacenation.us
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