I wonder how desperate the people will become as time drags on

Article posted on July 31, 2014

The House announced today that their scheduled session days next week are cancelled. They scheduled this time to vote on HB 1177, which is a bill most noted for allowing the City of Philadelphia the ability to add taxes to the sales of cigarettes. The additional money generated would go to their schools. The Senate was anticipating changes to the bill in the House and going into session next Thursday to appoint conferees to a Conference Committee for the resolution of the differences. This tentative schedule was officially scuttled this afternoon. HB 1177 also includes tax changes for a specific economic development program as well as giving the ability to certain counties to increase lodging taxes for tourism and other programs. This bill will be taken up in September. The delay creates a new dynamic concerning the urgency of the funding for the Philly schools. The Governor can advance funding to get the school year started, but, that is not a permanent fix. I wonder how desperate the people, including the legislators, from Philadelphia will become as time drags on.

-John

The taxpayers I’m hearing from deserve it

Article posted on July 30, 2014

How about this cool weather, and more rain. It’s been the longest Spring on record. I’ve been asked about the pension problems more than any other subject lately. I haven’t spoken to a soul (other than the public sector union folks) who think the current system should continue as is. The vast majority of people don’t have a defined benefit program and tell me that when they express their concerns about paying for the $50 billion problem taxpayers face. The current system is hard to defend when government pensions are out of step with what’s happening with the rest of America. Switching new employees to a defined contribution program is not new; most employers did it years ago. Hopefully changes can happen when we go back into session this Fall. The taxpayers I’m hearing from deserve it.

-John

2014 A.B. Ross Leadership Program Group Photos

Article posted on July 30, 2014

Check them out!

Article posted on July 29, 2014

Staff and I rearranged the file room today at the Hollidaysburg office. The space is adequate, as far as I’m concerned, but we have one large piece of equipment that creates a problem, our all-in-one copier/printer/fax machine. Staff came up with a layout that works well. We took out some shelving, moved one of four lateral filing cabinets, rearranged the aforementioned machine, the postage machine and its cabinet. I then replaced a metal rack on the wall closer to the reception area and installed another wall rack close by. These helped organize materials frequently requested by constituents. It is a big improvement. We also got up on my website the latest video and pics from the A.B. Ross Leadership Program. Check them out!

-John

WATCH: Video Highlights from the 2014 A.B. Ross Leadership Program

Article posted on July 29, 2014

Click here to watch

A closer look at what’s happening is warranted

Article posted on July 28, 2014

This morning I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new behavioral health center at the VA Hospital in Altoona. With all of the attention the VA health system is getting, it was interesting to hear comments about the Altoona facility and how it fared better than others with their treatment timelines for Vets. To me, this system has always been somewhat disjointed with people being treated both inside and outside of the system and some in the system treated at various locations. I know some Vets who can’t say enough about the care they’ve received and others who complain that it’s substandard. In any event, a closer look at what’s happening is warranted. I finished the day at the Shade Gap Picnic parade. It was good to see the folks from southern Huntingdon County.

-John

Check in with people who work in private industry

Article posted on July 27, 2014

I read a few interesting stories today in papers from around the state. One covered the arguments over the pension problem and included comments from the PSEA saying that no legislative action should be taken, that the problem will fix itself. Really, that’s what they said. The Democrats are talking about borrowing our way out of this mess. The central point of their argument is that the current plan should not be touched, even for new hires. That the taxpayers of this state should always be on the hook for whatever the pension obligation is today or in 20 years. That even though most everyone in the private sector changed their retirement programs to a 401K type of product years ago, public sector employees should receive a defined benefit plan regardless of cost. Maybe these folks should check in with people who work in private industry, or better yet, someone who pays taxes.

-John

I hope we do better than last night

Article posted on July 26, 2014

I worked at home all day today. I can seldom say that, given my schedule. It was nice to be able to get a sizable amount of work finished. I planned to mow tomorrow, but heard the forecast for rain and got it done before supper. Charlotte and I ate on the deck and were surprised that it started to rain after we finished eating. Our plan to sit and relax for a few minutes was cut short. I still have a project inside to work on while I listen to the Pirate game. I hope we do better than we did last night.

-John

That works!

Article posted on July 25, 2014

It was a pretty day, no rain and sunny. I like all of the seasons and I can take the heat, but I prefer it no hotter than it got this afternoon. I only had one appointment today, so I got caught up on a few letters and calls as well as two errands. Anymore, I seldom have a day without press calls; I had two today. I’m having an old friend over for dinner tonight. Charlotte has to play for a wedding tomorrow and has rehearsal tonight, so I’m cooking hot sausage on the grill. One of my favorites and something she doesn’t like. That works!

-John

This is an important issue, but not very sexy

Article posted on July 24, 2014

I drove to Harrisburg this morning for a presentation on how the Common Level Ratio is developed. This is all part of a review of the STEB policies. I was appointed to represent the Senate on a board for this purpose. STEB is the State Tax Equalization Board. The presenter this morning was from Iowa and has a distinguished national record regarding tax policies and procedures. The bottom line of his presentation was that more information needs to be collected regarding real estate sales across the Commonwealth. When coupled with changes to the classifications of real estate and more comprehensive data in general, the accuracy of the numbers coming from STEB will be improved. This is an important issue for everyone, but not very sexy.

-John