Capitol Roundup: Wolf says Trump budget will harm Pennsylvania communities
WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf this week reacted strongly to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, saying it will harm communities across Pennsylvania.
“Thousands of Pennsylvanians rely on programs that are being eliminated or dramatically cut in President Trump’s budget proposal,” Wolf said in a news release.
Wolf said senior citizens receive food from Meals on Wheels, families across Pennsylvania get help paying for their heating bills through heating assistance, workers rely on job training programs to help them get back on their feet and students with disabilities get access to the education they need to succeed through federal funding.
“All of these programs are facing elimination or massive cuts,” Wolf said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Wolf said many communities will be harmed by “indiscriminate cuts” to housing programs, agriculture investments, and efforts to keep our land and water safe.
“Here in Pennsylvania we have seen first-hand the consequences of budgets that indiscriminately cut programs,” Wolf said. “Our schools are still recovering from the cuts under the previous administration, as I have fought to increase education funding by $640 million.”
Wolf said he has made sure his budget puts Pennsylvania families first. He said facing a difficult budget situation, he found $2 billion in savings, allowing for targeted investments in schools, job training, and programs that help Pennsylvania’s seniors.
“My budget proposal stands in stark contrast to the proposal from Washington that simply tries to cut its way out of its problem at the expense of families and seniors,” Wolf said.
Wolf is asking Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to carefully review the cuts in this proposal and help stop them.
DEP secretary reacts
to proposed EPA cuts
In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell outlined what the impacts of the substantial cuts Trump proposes for the EPA would mean for the citizens and business of Pennsylvania.
“These budget cuts do not reduce any of the responsibilities that DEP has to the people of Pennsylvania, but does decrease the resources available to fulfill those responsibilities,” McDonnell said in the letter. “These cuts, if enacted, would harm businesses seeking permits, and harm residents’ clean water, air and land.”
The letter outlined impacts from proposed cuts, including reductions to safe drinking water inspections, sewage and industrial wastewater inspections, brownfield redevelopment, and elimination of funding for radon protection, a problem that plagues Pennsylvania homes.
In addition, the proposed budget would eliminate funding to restore the waterways, like the Susquehanna River, that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania has recently made tremendous strides in improving local water quality through this program, he said.
McDonnell said Pennsylvania has benefited from a long partnership with the federal government to address environmental concerns, which has resulted in great improvements to the health, quality of life, and economic prosperity of Pennsylvania residents.
“We urge the Trump administration not to turn its back on those very federal-state partnerships that have produced these many benefits,” McDonnell said.
bill protects animals
U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, this week reintroduced the bipartisan Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.
The PACT Act seeks to outlaw a heinous deadly form of animal maiming and torture known as “crushing.” If enacted, the PACT Act would be the first-ever federal law to grant all animals federal protections against cruelty and abuse.
Despite taking steps in 2010 to ban the sale of videos depicting animal crushing, Congress did not make the underlying act of crushing a federal crime. This means that even when there is overwhelming evidence that torture is taking place, federal law enforcement is currently unable to protect animals from abuse or even arrest known abusers.
The Senate passed the bipartisan PACT Act unanimously in the last session of Congress.
Individuals found guilty of torturing animals would face felony charges, fines, and up to seven years in prison.
“There is absolutely no place for the crushing of animals in our society,” Toomey said in an emailed news release. “It is blatantly inhumane and astonishingly cruel. I can’t believe this isn’t already against the law, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to end this abhorrent practice. This bipartisan bill is the first step towards that goal.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said it’s long past time that Congress empowers the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to deal with particularly malicious and deviant acts of cruelty on federal property or that cross state lines, especially given the well-documented link between animal abuse and other forms of violent behavior.
“This commonsense legislation passed the Senate last year with enormous bipartisan support, and now we urge the House to take up this measure swiftly to fortify the legal framework against cruelty in the United States,” Pacelle said.
The PACT Act is endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Casey announces next
stops in Town Hall series
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, announced this week his next stops in his Town Hall series will be in Scranton and Pittsburgh in April.
After hearing from constituents across the state, Casey announced earlier this month that he would host a series of town halls across the state. The series began in Philadelphia last Sunday.
The Scranton town hall will be in the eraly afternoon on April 2. The Pittsburgh town hall will be mid-afternoon on April 9. Specific times and locations will be released in the near future.
House passes Toohil’s
adoption reform bill
Adoption reform legislation that would provide financial assistance to birth mothers, sponsored by state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for consideration this week.
“My legislation would allow for the reimbursement of reasonable living expenses incurred by the birth mother three months prior to the birth of the child until 60 days following the birth of the child,” Toohil said. “We want to ensure that birth mothers in Pennsylvania can get what they need during pregnancy, just like they can in many other states.”
House Bill 289 would add reasonable expenses incurred by a birth mother of a child being placed for adoption to the list of expenses that currently are permitted to be reimbursed in an adoption process and paid by the adoptive parents. Those expenses may include food, rent, utilities, maternity clothing, and an amount not to exceed $300 for expenses and transportation costs associated with prenatal, maternity and post-maternity care.
The list would be overseen by the court.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.