Blake Says Property Tax Reform is Necessary but IFO’s Property Tax Reform Report Shows Much More Work to Do

HARRISBURG, Oct. 15, 2013 — State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement following a public hearing this morning on Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76, legislation that would replace the current property tax system with increases in the personal and sales taxes:

“After listening to the testimony by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) about the real-world implications of these companion bills, I am convinced we need to continue this conversation. The proposals have significant fiscal consequences, despite their laudable intentions, in trying to find a way to relieve taxpayers from a severely flawed system.

“The current tax structure for funding public education in this commonwealth is obsolete, dysfunctional, inequitable and onerous, particularly on our fixed-income seniors and younger, working-class families trying to build wealth as first-time homebuyers,” Blake said.

According to the Independent Fiscal Office, the 76s both result in a $1 billion deficit for our public schools over the five-year period ending in 2017-‘18.

Blake said the IFO report shows that if SB 76 had been law from 2003 to 2013, Pennsylvania School districts would have received between $9.3 billion and $27.5 billion fewer dollars.

“For the past five years in the 22nd Senatorial District alone, 13 school districts have received just $1 dollar from the state for every $2 dollars they’ve had to raise locally. The local tax burden has risen from $297 million in 2008-2009 to $340 million in 2012-2013 while the state’s share of meeting the cost of public education has been flat or declining,” Blake said.

“The business community of this commonwealth has also gone on record in voicing concerns about this legislation and we should, in a bipartisan way, balance their interests with the wellbeing of individuals and families to achieve the best possible outcome for resolving Pennsylvania’s school property tax burdens and school funding challenges,” the senator said.

“I believe the conversation has to continue until we can find a solution set that addresses the crisis in many jurisdictions of the state where families and, particularly, seniors are at risk of losing their homes due to the extraordinary burden associated with school property taxes. We also must ensure that we meet our constitutional obligation to sustain a thorough and efficient system of public education. In the end, the state must meet a greater share of the overall cost of public education in order to take the burden off of the local tax base,” Blake said.

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Blake to Host Economy, Education Summit on Monday

SCRANTON, November 30, 2012 – – State Sen. John Blake will host numerous legislators, school officials, business and labor leaders from across the region for a discussion about the economic impact of career focused education at his first E2 Summit.

The E2 Summit will take place on Monday, December 3 from 8 a.m. until noon in The Rose Room on the campus of the University of Scranton.

Blake’s E2 Summit was initially scheduled for October 30 but was postponed due to severe weather throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Presentations and discussions at the E2 Summit will focus on the importance of career-focused education for the future of this region’s youth and the impact this education can have on our region’s economy including Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike Counties.

Scheduled participants include Congressman Glen Thompson; Paul Harrington, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University; Peter L. Rozelle, Ph.D., Office of Clean Energy Systems, US Department of Energy; Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board; Joann Hudak, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent, Wallenpaupack Area School District; and Nancy Tkatch, Administrative Director, Westside Career and Technology Center.

The Rose Room is located on the 5th floor of Brennan Hall, which is located on the 300 block of Madison Ave. in Scranton.

Media coverage is welcome and encouraged.

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Senate Democrats Unveil Infrastructure Investment Plan in Luzerne County

WILKES-BARRE, June 1, 2012 – – Northeastern Pennsylvania state Sens. John Yudichak and John Blake today welcomed Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia) to the site of a stalled construction project in Luzerne County to announce the details of a $2.8 billion plan that would upgrade Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and create thousands of jobs.

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“Our plan will not only put Pennsylvanians back to work, but it will provide the necessary funding to move forward on critical transportation projects like the South Valley Parkway project where we are standing today,” Yudichak said. “The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Plan will not only improve the quality and safety of our roads and bridges, but will create thousands of jobs and encourage business development.”

The Senate Democrats’ “Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Plan” involves creative new solutions to leverage existing federal, state and private resources in support of $2.8 billion in new infrastructure investment.

At the core of the plan is the creation of a new tax incentive program that would fund $1.5 billion in water, sewer and public transit infrastructure improvements. The principal on the $1.5 billion in bonds would be paid from already earmarked shale tax revenues and local contributions for mass transit projects. The plan would also use federal GARVEE bonds to generate $1 billion to fund a short term transportation improvement plan.

“Our proposal is a fiscally responsible way to repair our infrastructure without overburdening future state budgets or increasing taxes,” Blake said. “Pennsylvania – and especially Northeastern Pennsylvania – needs jobs. Investing in transportation and other public works infrastructure can provide them.”

Another facet of the plan would refocus $167 million now available through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) to make infrastructure investments for new commercial and industrial real estate developments. These can attract new businesses as well as support in-state business expansion while financing more small business loans and new venture capital incentives.

“Without raising any taxes, the Senate Democratic plan will create jobs and make an investment in the future of Pennsylvania by improving and upgrading our infrastructure,” Costa added. “This is a smart investment for the future of Pennsylvania and also a proven way to positively impact the state economy.”

Finally, the Senate Democratic infrastructure investment plan will sustain the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program to invest $60 million through our major academic research institutions for life science research and development.

“Senate Democrats understand that the clearest path to improving Pennsylvania’s economy is through targeted investment in our infrastructure,” Hughes said. “We have a real plan with clear, innovative solutions to leverage existing federal, state and private equity resources to address the dire needs of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.”

Many other local business leaders and elected officials also participated in the news conference to lend their support to funding improvements to Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.

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