HARRISBURG, July 28, 2017 — State Sen. Vincent Hughes released the following statement on the Senate’s passage of a package of revenue bills needed to fund the 2017-18 state budget.
“This revenue package, though imperfect, represents a bipartisan compromise among four of the five key players in budget negotiations — the Senate Democrats and Republicans, House Democrats and the governor,” said Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s not what Senate Democrats would have crafted, but it does include important priorities that we support and that will help move Pennsylvania forward.
“We have broken new ground today with the passage of this funding package because, for the first time in Pennsylvania, a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling has made significant movement in the legislature. Senate Democrats have been working to enact this tax for nearly a decade. It’s long past time for wealthy natural gas drillers to pay their fair share for profiting off our natural resources. It’s a modest tax, but a tax nonetheless and it will help close the budget deficit without hurting taxpayers.
“Also for the first time, the budget will include dedicated and permanent state funding for the state’s Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Given the fiscal upheaval at the federal level that threatens programs aimed at assisting vulnerable individuals, this new support for LIHEAP is both welcomed and necessary.
“I’m extremely pleased that the legislation will establish the First Chance Trust Fund, a public charitable trust to help children impacted by the prison system and reverse the direction of youth who are on a path leading to incarceration in Pennsylvania. This fund, which is a result of legislation that I crafted with a bipartisan group of legislators, would be used to create scholarships and provide grants to programs that benefit children of incarcerated loved ones and children facing challenges.
“The legislation also now allows the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to suspend the licenses of so-called “stop-and-go” nuisance establishments that have been wreaking havoc on communities. This is a positive step for communities that are trying to improve or maintain their quality of life.
“We were also able to prevent a significant cut to the School District of Philadelphia by fixing the city’s Actual Value Initiative, saving the school district approximately $250 million. This cut would have inflicted further pain on a district that is already underfunded, so this AVI fix was necessary.”
The state budget revenue bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.