March 19, 2024 – Tele-Town Hall Summary

Senator Pennycuick Hears Concerns from Residents about Gov. Shapiro’s Proposed Budget

On Tuesday, March 19th, Pennsylvania Senator Tracy Pennycuick (24th District) held a telephone Town Hall for residents in her district to discuss Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-2025 budget. Governor Shapiro has proposed a $48.3 billion budget, a spending increase of roughly $3.2 billion. To fund his new initiatives, the Governor proposes to spend down the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, which the state uses in the event of emergencies.

Senator Pennycuick said that the state budget is a collaborative effort between the House, Senate and the Governor and is an expression of the policies and goals that Pennsylvania hopes to achieve. The budget touches every citizen of the Commonwealth. From educating our children, to supporting key sectors of our economy, to funding critical infrastructure, the budget makes significant investments in our state so that Pennsylvania is a place where families want to live, work, and grow.

Senator Pennycuick noted that even without the Governor’s new proposed spending, the state has annual cost of living increases as well as rising health care costs, among other expenses. Unlike the federal government, the Commonwealth cannot go into debt to cover its annual expenses.

During the Town Hall, Senator Pennycuick was joined by Matthew Knittle, the head of the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). The IFO provides independent, objective analysis of fiscal, economic and budgetary issues. Mr. Knittle discussed what the Governor’s proposed budget means to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.

He said high interest rates continue to have a negative impact on consumers and job creators. As a result, Pennsylvania is beginning to see a slowdown in revenue collections. He expressed concern about the revenue and expense projections in the Governor’s budget proposal and emphasized the important benefits of the state Rainy-Day Fund. The IFO’s projected revenues for 2024-25 are $825 million lower than the Shapiro administration’s, and $8 billion lower over five years, which would result in large tax hikes or sweeping program cuts in the future. Mr. Knittel acknowledged that Pennsylvania’s ongoing structural deficit and projected the current fund balance and the Rainy-Day Fund would both run out in 2026-27 under the Governor’s budget. The IFO projects additional financial challenges for Pennsylvania in the years ahead due to demographic changes, particularly the growth in the aging population while overall population remains flat. At the same time, the K-12 school-age population is expected to decline.

Senator Pennycuick added, “as lawmakers, we must be cautious of the Governor’s plan as proposed, and continually ask “how are we going to pay for this spending. Because the last thing I want to do as a lawmaker is ask Pennsylvanians to bear the burden of a tax increase or significant vital service cuts in the near future.” She added that the “the Rainy-Day Fund serves as an important bullwork to prevent future tax increases and service cuts and has been one of the main contributing factors to our state’s improved credit rating, which will save the Commonwealth millions in interest.”

The Senator was also joined by John Guyer, Executive Director for the state Senate Appropriations Committee to answer questions about the fiscal health of the Commonwealth. Mr. Guyer stated that the Governor’s budget vastly overstates future tax revenue growth, understates projected growth in key areas of future budgets, like human services, and fails to acknowledge increased education funding beyond the current fiscal year, to balance the budget. Senator Pennycuick added that using one-time dollars for reoccurring expenses is not the way to create a sustainable budget.

During the call, Senator Pennycuick conducted two polls to garner feedback from residents. The first poll asked: Do you believe that the Commonwealth should spend down all of the state’s reserves in the Rainy-Day Fund to support the Governor’s budget? The results from residents on the call were 12% Yes and 88% No. In addition, the Senator asked participants: Are you concerned about Artificial Intelligence being utilized to interfere in our elections? The results were 89% Yes and 11% No. As Chair of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, Senator Pennycuick is working to protect Pennsylvanians and address issues surrounding cyber security.

Throughout the call, the Senator took questions from numerous residents from throughout Montgomery and Berks counties. Constituents raised concerns about the Governor’s plan to change the state’s higher education system and merge the community college system into one. Senator Pennycuick noted that during the recent budget hearings, the Shapiro Administration had few details about how a new system would work. She praised both Montgomery County Community College and the Reading Area Community College and expressed concern about merging them with failing PASSHE schools.

Residents raised numerous questions about education and the need for further investment in Career and Technical Education, an issue championed by the Senator. In addition, callers raised concerns about increasing property taxes, mental health funding, EMS funding, illegal immigration, and the homeless. The Senator said she supports freezing property taxes for seniors and increased funding for mental health services. She noted that she is working on addressing the homeless issue, particularly in Pottstown with area leaders and stakeholders. During the recent budget hearing, the Senator called on the Shapiro Administration to help solve for the growing funding problems of ambulance companies throughout the Commonwealth.

The Senator provided an update of recent legislative action. She said crime continues to be one of the top concerns raised by constituents, including the influx of new and deadlier drugs, like fentanyl. The Senator sponsored a bill to reform the bail process to take into account the amount of fentanyl a dealer or trafficker has in their possession and an individual’s record of violent crime. She noted that the Senate Judiciary committee approved this bill, and it is now headed to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senator also discussed identity theft legislation that provides families with one year of credit monitoring and a credit report for free if their sensitive personal information is stolen during a data breach.

In closing, the Senator, as a veteran of the U.S. Army, shared one of her key priorities that aims to ensure that “all veterans have access to the healthcare that they deserve, that they earned, and that they were promised”. The Senator championed passage of a resolution to establish a Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care to help address the unique needs of female veterans.

Senator Pennycuick reminded residents that her office provides a range of services for constituents of the 24th Senatorial District and encouraged them to call her office if help is needed with a state-related program or department. Constituents can call 215-541-2388 or visit or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @Sen_Pennycuick.

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