Senator Robert Tomlinson E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Set to Question Wolf Administration on Spending Plan
  • Keeping Track of Non-Budgeted State Tax Dollars
  • Help for Families Navigating the College Aid Process
  • Halting the Rise in Pennsylvania Traffic Fatalities

Senate Set to Question Wolf Administration on Spending Plan

On Feb. 8, Gov. Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion state budget for 2022-23 that would increase spending by $4.5 billion, create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following year and produce a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.

Next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee kicks off four weeks of public hearings to review the spending plan and question administration officials in preparation for developing a more responsible budget prior to the June 30 constitutional deadline.

You can find livestreams of the hearings, video of previous hearings and daily recaps here. I’ll report back each week with updates on this important process.

Keeping Track of Non-Budgeted State Tax Dollars

While the process of passing a responsible state budget gets underway, a new resource is available highlighting state spending that occurs after the budget is enacted.

A webpage recently launched by state Treasurer Stacy Garrity explains Ledger 5, which is used to account for non-budgeted expenditures incurred during a fiscal year that are legally mandated or necessary to maintain public health, safety or welfare.

Before Ledger 5 can be used, the Governor’s Office of the Budget must provide Treasury with documentation, known as an Expenditure Symbol Notification (ESN) memo, to explain and justify the expenditure. Treasury reviews the ESN memo and other expenditure documentation to ensure the payment is legal and correct. All ESN memos will be posted on the new webpage.

Help for Families Navigating the College Aid Process

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is offering several free webinars in February, March and April to help students and families plan for college and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

FAFSA Overview (Feb. 28, April 18)
Guiding students and families through a step-by-step process of filing the FAFSA and PA State Grant application.

Financial Aid 101 (March 7, March 28)
Discussing higher education costs, the types of financial aid available and how to apply for financial aid.

Financial Aid Junior Jumpstart (April 13)
Planning and goal setting for high school juniors.

Click here for times and registration.

Halting the Rise in Pennsylvania Traffic Fatalities

In Pennsylvania, 2021 preliminary data shows deaths on our roadways increased by as much as 10%, including increases in fatalities in speeding crashes, distracted driving crashes, crashes involving teen drivers, as well as unrestrained fatalities.

Pennsylvania Highway Safety Law Awareness Week is next week, Feb. 20-26, and it’s an opportunity to think about the laws and driving habits that increase traffic safety.

Highway safety laws that can prevent traffic fatalities include:

  • Distracted Driving – State law prohibits any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.
  • Seat Belts – Any occupant younger than 18 must buckle up when riding in a vehicle, as well as drivers and front-seat passengers. Children under the age of two must be secured in a rear-facing car seat, and children under the age of four must be restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until their eighth birthday.
  • Impaired Driving – Individuals are prohibited from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Penalties for driving while impaired depend on the individual’s level of impairment and prior offenses and can include up to $10,000 in fines, up to five years in prison, up to 18 months license suspension, one year of ignition interlock and more.
  • Speeding – Motorists are required to drive at reasonable and prudent speeds for the current conditions. This law is sometimes called the “assured clear distance” rule because it requires motorists to operate at a speed at which they can stop within an “assured clear distance.” Drivers may be ticketed for rear-ending another vehicle because they violated this law by not stopping within the following distance they allowed.

You can read more about highway safety at www.PennDOT.gov/safety.

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