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Sen. Yudichak Reports

2013-14 State Budget Invests in Education and Public Safety

Budget Reaction
Sen. Yudichak reacts to the passage of the 2013-14 state budget.

The reality is, in this economic climate, no state budget can adequately fund all state priorities, but this spending plan does get it right in a number of areas critically important to the residents of my district in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

First and foremost, the budget blunts the administration's assault on education by dedicating $120 million in new funds to basic education and increasing funding for higher education. A college education has become a prerequisite for most employment and if we do not have a strong K-12 system – our children would fall behind. Additionally, by increasing funding to our state and state-related institutions – we are making strides to keep a college education affordable for Pennsylvania families.

The budget also makes great strides in public safety – and continues our fight against the rise of violent crime in northeastern Pennsylvania. Last year, working with Senator Dominic Pileggi, Senator John Rafferty and Representative Tarah Tooill, the General Assembly passed Pennsylvania's first anti-gang law and this year we invest $2.5 million in a new mobile street crime unit headed up by Attorney General Kathleen Kane that will seek to disrupt and dismantle organized criminal gangs in Pennsylvania.
 
While we have made great strides in community safety and gang awareness through our Operation Gang Up initiative with Congressman Lou Barletta – the mobile street crime unit will give cities like Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre the forces and expertise we need to keep violence, crime and drugs out of our neighborhoods.

After frustratingly leading the state in unemployment rate for over three years now, this budget offers a glimmer of hope to Northeastern Pennsylvania families by advancing the Medicaid expansion that will allow more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians to gain access to health care; protect the financial health of our hospitals; and create an estimated 40,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth.

This was still a difficult budget year, but the final spending plan does enough for Northeastern Pennsylvania that I voted in favor of the $28.375 billion state budget.

Budget Includes $2.5 Million for Attorney General Mobile Street Crime Unit

Mobile Street Crime Unit
Sen. Yudichak and Rep. Tarah Toohil talk about the $2.5 million in funding dedicated to the Attorney General's mobile street crime unit.

While there are many important line items in this year’s state budget, few were more critical to our area than the inclusion of $2.5 million for the Attorney General's mobile street crime unit.

This funding will allow the office of Attorney General to implement a mobile street crime unit that will disrupt and dismantle criminal gangs in Pennsylvania.

Ensuring that this program was funded in the state budget was a top priority for myself, state Rep. Tarah Toohil and Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

This mobile street crime unit is important to send a message to gangs, criminals, and drug dealers – not here, not on our watch and not in Pennsylvania. It will give the tools to law enforcement and to the Attorney General's office to work with local police departments to effectively drive gangs out of our schools and out of our neighborhoods.

The AG Mobile Street Crime Strike Force will be an elite unit of highly trained, highly skilled law enforcement agents that will team up with the FBI, the state police and local police departments to end criminal gang operations across Pennsylvania.

Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we have seen first-hand the dangers posed by criminal gangs in our communities and Hazleton Chief of Police Frank DeAndrea said that he is positive the mobile street crime unit is going to make a huge difference to the residents of Pennsylvania.

For Coal Creek, Cooperation Equaled Success

Coal Creek Press Conference
Sen. Yudichak comments on progress of Coal Creek restoration project.

On July 3, 2011, a storm poured 6 inches of rain into Coal Creek causing massive flooding that washed out bridges, destroyed Coal Street, tore homes from their foundations and stranded hundreds of homeowners.

The damage, estimated in the range of $5 million, fell well short of the threshold for federal aid, so federal, state and county officials worked together to obtain upwards of $1 million in public and private funds to restore the Coal Creek area.

I can assure you that without the remarkable level of cooperation between all parties – the communities, the various agencies and the residents—the best of plans and the best of intentions would have fallen short. Within hours after the flooding through now – the Coal Creek remediation project has been the ultimate display of teamwork and cooperation; for Coal Creek, cooperation equaled success.

Last week, as we stood in the shadow of a passive and tranquil Coal Creek – nearly two years to the day of the massive flooding and indescribable damage – we all felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride in our cooperative efforts to help the residents of Coal Street.

For before/after photos of the Coal Creek remediation project, visit www.senatoryudichak.com/CoalCreek

Penn State Board Governance Reforms are Long Overdue

PSU Reforms News Conference
Sen. Yudichak discusses need for further reforms at Penn State University

In my family, like many Pennsylvania families, the phrase “We Are Penn State” is not just a slogan at a football game… it’s a way of life.
 
I take great offense by those who suggest that criticizing the actions of the Penn State Board of Trustees is tantamount to being disloyal or disparaging to the University. Higher education boards – especially public higher education boards – should always be willing to examine whether they are living up to their mission and should continuously strive to be accountable to their stakeholders.

The Governor and the General Assembly need to address Board of Governance issues at Penn State that may have contributed to and/or compounded a scandal that has to date cost the University $46 million and counting.
 
The Senate State Government Committee has held two hearings on the issue of board governance and updates to the right to know law that include state related universities. The Penn State Board of Trustees has also acknowledged the shortcomings of their governance structure by creating a Governance Committee to make recommendations for improvements.

Regrettably, the recommendations from the Governance Committee and the recent actions of the Board fall well short of restoring any level of public confidence in the proposition that meaningful reform has taken place at Penn State.
 
Penn State students, faculty and alumni deserve better than lukewarm attempts to restore full confidence in the Board of Trustees; and the taxpayers of Pennsylvania deserve nothing less than a full commitment to accountability and transparency of its public universities.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended to December 31

Property Tax/Rent RebateIt was recently announced that the deadline to apply for the Pennsylvania Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program has been extended to December 31, 2013. If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability 18 and older, or a widow or widower age 50 and older, you may be eligible.

Income limits are $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebates to $975.

You can stop by any one of my district offices to get a claim form (PA-1000), receive help in completing your application, and check the status of your claim.

You may also check the status of claims online by clicking here or call 1-888-PATAXES. The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming

Community Safety Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me on the Internet through my website or on Facebook and Twitter.

 
June 22, 2011 - Senate Democrats to Discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment June 26, 2011 - Senate and House Democrats joined today to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.