Following is a listing of executive and legislative action from the week of Nov. 27. Both houses of the General Assembly were in recess. The state House of Representatives was scheduled to return to session on Monday. The Pennsylvania Senate was scheduled to come back to session on Dec. 11.
Six Pennsylvania Senate Republicans announced on Nov. 27 they intend to introduce a “zero-based” budget reform bill that would require every state agency to build its budget from a starting point of zero dollars.
Backing the upcoming measure were Sens. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon; Dan Laughlin, R-Erie; Scott Martin, R-Lancaster; Mike Regan, R-York; Guy Reschenthaler, R-Allegheny; and Scott Wagner, R-York. The bill would require state agencies to justify every dollar of spending, every year, in a method known as “zero-based budgeting.”
The senators said in a statement on the upper house’s GOP caucus website that they believe this budgeting method will find unrealized savings and efficiencies that can save taxpayers millions of dollars.
Framing the measure as an alternative to tax hikes, Wagner said, “I we implement zero- based budgeting, state government can be responsible stewards of taxpayer money. We could balance our budget and start cutting waste.”
The bill would institute a significant departure from traditional budgeting, whereby agencies base their projections on the prior year’s figures.
GAMING CONTROL BOARD
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Nov. 27 that Obra Kernodle has been appointed to the Gaming Control Board. Kernodle most recently served as deputy chief of staff in the Wolf administration.
“Obra has been an important voice in my administration for improving the lives of all Pennsylvanians and I know he will bring the same dedication and commitment to the Gaming Control Board,” Wolf said. Kernodle, of Philadelphia, has served as deputy mayor for legislative affairs during Mayor Michael Nutter’s time in office and oversaw organizing in southeast Pennsylvania for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. A 2002 graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Kernodle has also served on Wolf’s successful gubernatorial campaign, and was a senior adviser to the transi- tion team that prepared for the Wolf administration’s launch in 2015.
On Nov. 29, Wolf announced a new pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship program through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) aimed at enabling more Pennsylvania employers to develop specialized training for workers and also provide career pathways for students and adults.
“The expansion of our apprenticeship programs provides Pennsylvania companies and our workforce with a competitive edge,” Wolf said in an administration statement. “The creation of this new program reinforces our commitment to providing job seekers with hands-on training and helps to create a pipeline of highly-skilled talent for employers.”
Under the expanded program, DCED is accepting grant proposals from apprentice- ship sponsors such as single employers, employer consortiums, workforce development boards, economic development organizations, labor organization, career tech schools, Pennsylvania community colleges, and community organizations, the statement said. Apprenticeship opportunities must be registered with the state Department of Labor and Industry.
The new apprenticeships are set to be funded through money that has been clawed back from businesses and organizations that have received state support and failed to meet state contract requirements, the statement said.
As a result of the expansion, the administration said, 2,610 new apprenticeships and 81 new registered apprenticeship occupations have been created statewide.
TAX CREDIT TRANSPARENCY
State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, recently introduced legislation requiring state tax credit programs to create annual reports with detailed information, according to a Nov. 29 statement on the state House of Representatives Republican caucus website.
HB 1947 would require state tax credit programs to produce an annual report giving the names of tax credit recipients, the amount of the credit issued or used and other data. Ortitay said transparency is needed to ensure wise use of tax dollars and enable the public and lawmakers to evaluate the efficacy of tax-credit programs.
“Only a few tax credit programs currently produce annual reports,” Ortitay said. “Unfortunately, even these reports do not provide sufficient information for citizens to fully understand where the tax credits are going and for what they are being used. My legislation would require detailed annual reports for every state tax credit program, similar to the PennWATCH database, which allows anyone to see detailed information on state spending and revenue online.”