Blake: Budget Streamlines Government, Invests in Education, Economic Development

HARRISBURG, February 7, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s proposed $32.3 billion state budget:

“Governor Wolf, since the start of his administration, has been demanding efficiency, better performance and savings in the operations of state government. That work certainly has paid some dividends and it will continue to drive, perhaps more than anything else, this year’s budget process.”

“The Governor’s proposed 2017-18 has a number of important initiatives that I support, and have supported since taking office in 2011, to streamline state government and invest in areas most important to the citizens of Pennsylvania. This budget proposal uses state revenues more effectively to fund what the people of Pennsylvania want and deserve – an increase in state support for basic education, special education and Pre-K; adequate funding to serve the needs of our seniors and persons with disabilities; state investment to assure proper treatment and healing for those caught in the tragedy of the opioid epidemic; and it continues the role of state government in workforce development and investment in infrastructure to leverage private investment to ensure vitality in our cities and our communities.”

“The Governor has again called for a severance tax on the natural gas industry to better compensate Pennsylvanians for the volume of natural gas extracted from our state. I have supported a responsible, reasonable severance tax since coming to Harrisburg. Additionally, Governor Wolf has proposed combined reporting for Pennsylvania businesses – which reflects a bill I have previously introduced in past legislative sessions and will reintroduce shortly. Moving to a system of combined reporting – as at least 24 other states have done – would advance tax fairness by effectively closing the so-called “Delaware Loophole” and ensuring we stop legal tax avoidance by large, multi-national and multi-state corporations.”

“I commend the Governor and his team for taking an aggressive tact in balancing this year’s budget while sending a positive message to capital markets that we will have a sustainable plan to meet our future obligations to the citizens of this state.”

“As a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team and the Appropriations Committee, I look forward to debating the specifics of this budget and to our continued work on reforming property taxes and state pension systems which I believe will be important issues in the coming budget debate.”

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Blake: SCI Waymart Operations, Jobs Spared from Closure

Senator Blake adding the final signature to his petition to save SCI Waymart. The petition was delivered yesterday afternoon to the Governor’s office with 4,000 signatures.

HARRISBURG, January 26, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding the news that the Department of Corrections will not be closing the State Correctional Institute at Waymart and two other NEPA prisons.

“I am relieved and encouraged that SCI Waymart was spared the fate of being closed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.  This means, for the immediate future, that over 700 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact will not be lost in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Further, the specialized services and mental health treatment sorely needed within our state’s Corrections system will be maintained at Waymart.”

“I am very pleased that two other facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania — SCI Retreat and SCI Frackville — were also spared closing at this time. I want to express thanks for the leadership and for the voices of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) and their families throughout our region.  I also want to thank all federal, state and local elected officials as well as other community partners who spoke up for our Corrections workers in NEPA. Your voices – including the 4,000 NEPA residents who signed your names to our petition delivered to Governor Wolf yesterday – have been heard in Harrisburg.”

“Needless to say, I am deeply concerned for the workers and the families in western Pennsylvania who will be adversely affected by the decision of our state Department of Corrections to close SCI Pittsburgh.  I will monitor the actions of the Department in mitigating the personal and financial impacts on our fellow Pennsylvanians.”

“We need to ensure public safety; the safety of our workers; and the safety of those under the watchful eye and the necessary constraints of our Corrections system. We also need to be smarter in how we deal with non-violent offenders in order to reduce prison populations going forward.  This means – as an alternative to shutting down facilities and shuffling prisoners around while disrupting lives and regional economies — investing in proper treatment and job training capacities to transition more non-violent offenders into productive members of society.”

The Department of Corrections announced earlier today that due to budget constraints, they will be closing SCI Pittsburgh by July 2017.

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Sen. Blake, Senate Dems Send Letter to Gov. Wolf in Support of NEPA Prisons

HARRISBURG, January 12, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake today joined other members of Senate Democratic Leadership in sending a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf expressing their concerns with the potential closure of two state prisons.

The joint letter was signed by Blake along with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Caucus Chairman Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), and state Sens. Daylin Leach and John Yudichak.

To view a copy of the joint letter, click here.

Blake, Gov. Wolf Announce State Investment, Expansion of Simplex Industries

IMG_4367Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe)  today announced that Simplex Industries, Inc., a custom manufacturer of modular homes and light commercial buildings, will expand operations in Scranton, Lackawanna County, and will create 40 new jobs.

“It’s a great honor to announce that a third generation manufacturer that started here is now growing here,” Governor Wolf said. “Manufacturing is a critical part of Pennsylvania’s economy, and we’re proud to support the innovative technologies taking hold here and within the industry all across the commonwealth.”

Simplex Industries will re-engineer both of its manufacturing plants to modernize machines and equipment to integrate 3D printing technology, which will provide cost and operational efficiencies. The company will invest more than $3 million in the project, and has also committed to creating 40 new, full-time jobs, while retaining 215 existing positions over the next three years.

“Simplex Industries remains committed to providing quality modular products and also providing good, local jobs here in Lackawanna County,” said Patrick Fricchione, president and CEO, Simplex Industries, Inc. “This impactful investment will help us leverage technology to help expand our family owned company, and we’re excited to partner with the Governor’s Action Team and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Simplex Industries received a funding proposal from the Department of Community and Economic Development that includes $80,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits to be distributed upon creation of the new jobs, $18,000 in WEDnetPA funding for employee training, and a $100,000 Pennsylvania First program grant.

“Simplex Industries has always been on the cutting edge of the manufacturing industry and this funding will help inspire their next generation of innovation as they continue to make smart investments to remain a leader in their industry,” Sen. John Blake added. “I sincerely appreciate the commitment of the Fricchione family to our community by making such a significant investment in technology and innovation here in Lackawanna County.”

IMG_4379“I’m happy to join in announcing this great news and congratulating Simplex Industries on the expansion,” said Rep. Marty Flynn. “Like workers all over northeastern Pennsylvania, the people at this company are committed to the work they do and they are helping to make a stronger economic future for all of us.”

The project was coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, an experienced group of economic development professionals who report directly to the governor and work with businesses that are considering locating or expanding in Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Lackawanna County Business and Economic Development, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

“Ben Franklin Technology Partners NEP provided assistance to Simplex Industries, allowing the company to leverage technology to become one of the leaders within their industry,” said Kenneth Okrepkie, regional manager, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “By working with the Enterprise Systems Center at Lehigh University, Ben Franklin was able to bring resources to Simplex Industries that allow the firm to strategically position itself as a thought leader within the modular construction industry. This project is another fine example of collaboration within the economic development community as the Governor’s Action Team, Lackawanna County Economic Development, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners NEP worked together to strengthen a family owned business that employs hundreds of people within one of our region’s urban centers, the city of Scranton.”

Simplex Industries was founded in 1971 by the Fricchione brothers and is headquartered in Scranton. Simplex Industries remains a family owned and operated company, and it is one of the oldest continually operating modular manufacturers in the country.

For more information on Simplex Industries, visit