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Government Outreach -July 13, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
July 13, 2023


1. Budget deal unlikely before September - Both chambers of the General Assembly officially left Harrisburg for the summer — an ominous sign that the bipartisan wound won’t heal anytime soon. The development comes nearly two weeks after the Senate recessed until mid-September, furious over Gov. Josh Shapiro’s default on a $45.5 billion budget deal — complete with a new $100 million school choice program he helped draft — amid resistance from Democratic leadership in the House. Shapiro told reporters last week that Republican leadership in the Senate moved forward with the spending plan before securing an agreement with the lower chamber — a strategy with which he disagreed. He encouraged both sides to find a solution amongst themselves. In the following days, blame flew from each chamber. In one corner, the Senate said the governor negotiated with them in bad faith after he sided with his party and said he’d line-item veto the school choice program. In the other corner, House lawmakers derided the upper chamber for adjourning session before signing the spending bill — and a few other agreed-to proposals — so it could proceed to Shapiro’s desk. On Wednesday, the House released a memo indicating it would not return to Harrisburg before Sept. 26. Barring any breakthrough in negotiations, the departure means the budget will — at best — be just three months late. Read More


2. How Pennsylvania plans to deploy $1.16B allocated for broadband expansion - More than $1 billion in federal funds is earmarked for Pennsylvania to expand broadband access, and state officials hope to deploy those resources over the next five years, aiming to serve thousands of people still without high-speed internet across the commonwealth. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson — joined by local and state leaders — outlined the administration’s plans to invest in broadband infrastructure, including efforts to encourage affordability and government collaboration. “This is a historic investment in broadband infrastructure and will help to provide the resources we need to expand access to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians [who] currently lack it,” Carson said during a stop in Luzerne County at the Pittston Memorial Library. Shapiro, who is currently in the middle of a budget impasse with state lawmakers, said the funding “will start to hit communities” early next year, estimating that roughly 325,000 businesses, homes, and other establishments lack broadband access in Pennsylvania. “This is government working together at all levels to deliver something meaningful and necessary for the good people of Pennsylvania,” he said.  Read More


3. State budget would provide $50 million to prop up ailing hospitals. A new $50 million appropriation to provide emergency relief for hospitals and health systems is included in the state budget still awaiting enactment. The line item under the state Department of Community and Economic Development was part of the amendment added by the Senate Republican caucus to House Bill 611, the budget bill. "The new line item in DCED recognizes hospitals statewide are strained and facing challenges as economic engines in their communities," said Kate Eckhart Flessner, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana. "This emergency relief will address the additional stress with workforce, facilities and an increasing need for mental health capacity, that has been placed on hospitals since the pandemic." Like other new programs, the details on how this emergency relief would be distributed await passage of the code bills that are part of the state budget package for Fiscal Year 2023-24 by both chambers. These new programs include indigent defense, foundations in industry and teacher stipends, as Pittman noted in a letter Tuesday. CLICK HERE to read more.


4. Shapiro's signed far fewer bills into law in first six months than recent predecessors. Gov. Josh Shapiro signed 10 bills into law this week - nine budget-related bills and a bill that names a boat access after former state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, In an indication of just how unproductive the Legislature has been this session -- that's twice as many bills as he'd signed since taking office. By this time last year, former Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat dealing with a Republican majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, had signed 94 bills into law. In his first year in office, Wolf had signed 47 bills (including nine budget-related bills) into law by July 10. The general appropriations bill didn't get Wolf's signature until Dec. 29 that year. Former Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican working with Republican majorities in both chambers, had signed 89 bills into law (including 14 budget-related bills) by this time in his first year in office.


5. Where does PA rank among America's top states for businesses? - A new analysis from CNBC ranks Pennsylvania among the top U.S. states for business competitiveness. For its America’s Top States for Business rankings released Tuesday, CNBC scored states in 86 areas across 10 broad categories of competitiveness, with a maximum possible score of 2,500 points. The categories were weighted based on how frequently the states use them to sell business opportunities in economic development marketing materials. “That way, our study ranks the states based on the attributes they use to sell themselves,” CNBC explained of its methodology, developed in consultation with a diverse group of business and policy experts, and the states themselves. Pennsylvania was ranked 15th with 1,391 points, rising two places from CNBC’s 2022 rankings. The Keystone State averaged Bs and Cs in all measures, performing highest in the technology and innovation, education, access to capital, and cost of living categories with a B+ Read More


6. Fees cut for 529 investment plans, Garrity says. Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced the second fee cut in three years for account holders saving money for college tuition using the investment plan 529 plans. Garrity approved a reduction of 1.25 basis points (0.0125 percent) in operational support fees in cooperation with Ascensus and Vanguard, Treasury's partners in administering the PA 529 program. PA 529 IP fees will now range from 0.1925 to 0.2925 percent. She said the change will save account holders $579,000. A fee reduction in 2021 saved account owners $220,000 during the following 12 months. Investment plan accounts account for about 60% of the PA 529 plans. Across the more than 286,000 current PA 529 accounts, families have $6.9 billion saved (an average of just over $24,000) for future education expenses, like tuition, fees, books and supplies, and room and board.

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