State Capitol Roundup

House Approves Pro-Jobs Unemployment Compensation Reform


Working to improve the state’s jobs climate, the House this week approved a measure to address the solvency of the Commonwealth’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) system.  The continued insolvency of the UC system impacts the ability of Pennsylvania businesses to hire new employees and maintain the staff they have in place.  Senate Bill 1310 authorizes the state Department of Labor and Industry to issue up to $4.5 billion in “UC solvency bonds” to repay the $3.9 billion Pennsylvania has borrowed from the federal government to continue paying benefits.  As of Jan. 1, 2012, state employers have begun repaying the borrowed money.  In addition to repaying the state’s UC debt, the bill enacts several reforms aimed at restoring solvency to the fund. Specifically, the bill freezes the maximum benefit rate and changes financial eligibility requirements in base year earnings.  The bill also updates and alters the calculation of an employer’s UC tax burden, which has not changed significantly since 1988, and it permits a one-time amnesty program to allow employers to pay unpaid UC taxes.  The measure is expected to garner $2.345 billion in savings between 2013 and 2019, the year the trust fund is expected to achieve total solvency. This proposal is in addition to legislation enacted last year that resulted in nearly $110 million in savings to the system.  Senate Bill 1310 now heads to the governor’s desk.


Bills Aim to Enhance Education in PA


In an effort to improve education in Pennsylvania and to enhance educational opportunities for families and students, action on two education bills was taken in the House this week.  House Bill 2364 seeks to change the current funding formula used to determine school district tuition payments for students who attend charter and cyber charter schools.  The bill was introduced in part as a response to an audit conducted last year by Auditor General Jack Wagner which found $225 million in questionable reimbursements school districts made to charter and cyber charter schools.  Provisions of the bill would address pension costs, which are currently not subtracted from district expenditures; eliminate non-instructional services from tuition payments, including athletic funds and non-public school programs and services; and limit unassigned fund balances and make them consistent with traditional public schools.  The House unanimously voted to send to the Senate another education measure.  House Bill 2319 would allow public career and technical schools to be included on the list of educational institutions that receive a credit from an Education Improvement Organization, which is funded by contributions from businesses, making the schools eligible for Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) programs.


Deadline to Apply for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Extended


The deadline to apply for the state’s 2011 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31.  As of May 31, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue had received 529,023 rebate applications.  Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2011. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities.  Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms are available by visiting Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) website at  Assistance is available at no cost to residents at Benninghoff’s district offices.  Claimants who already applied for Property Tax/Rent Rebates may check the status of claims online at Benninghoff’s website.  Rebate checks will be mailed out starting July 1 to those who have already submitted applications.

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