Debt Reduction and Philadelphia Schools on House Agenda Next Week

The House returns to session on Monday, Sept. 15. Live web streams of House session and the majority of committee meetings are available at PAHouseGOP.com.  Important information and events may also be viewed by visiting Facebook.com/PAHouseGOP.

Lowering Taxpayers’ Burden By Reducing Debt

Last year, in stark contrast to the continuous stalemate in Washington, D.C., the Pennsylvania House and Senate unanimously passed House Bill 493 (Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield/Elk), now Act 77 of 2013, which immediately reduced the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) debt by $600 million to $3.45 billion, a 15 percent reduction.  The new law also put in place new accountability controls to curtail the mounting levels of public debt for economic development projects.

Continuing these efforts, the House Finance Committee on Monday will consider two bills to further reduce Commonwealth debt. House Bill 2419 (Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny), would set annual limits for the state capital budget.  The new legislation would impose caps on the amount of money borrowed in any given year by the Commonwealth.

House Bill 2420, a companion bill, (Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre) would reduce the RACP debt ceiling by an additional $500 million over 10 years to bring the RACP limit down to $2.95 billion.

These changes would decrease the state’s debt load in real dollars – real dollars better spent on funding the core functions of government and lessening our debt burden. The goal is to reduce the annual payments made to pay the state’s debt obligation – to make certain the new debt Pennsylvania incurs is lower than the debt to be retired.  Capital debt service in this year’s budget exceeded $1 billion to repay the vast amount of money borrowed under the previous administration.

The whole House is expected to take up this legislation on Wednesday.

Philadelphia Schools

House Bill 1177 (Rep. Lucas, R-Erie), originally drafted to clarify language in the Municipal Code regarding mergers and consolidations of municipalities, has been amended to include language to improve the quality of education for the kids in Philadelphia.

Dr. William Hite, superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, has requested the legislation. The bill includes language enabling Philadelphia City Council to impose a cigarette tax within the city to help fund its schools.

HB 1177 also includes an important charter reform proposal allowing for a charter appeal process in Philadelphia. Under current law, charter school applicants may not appeal denial decisions by the School Reform Commission (SRC) to the state charter school appeal board; this lack of due process is unique to Philadelphia.  HB 1177 would ensure charter school applicants in Philadelphia are treated in the same manner as applicants throughout the Commonwealths’ 499 other school districts. By allowing direct appeals of SRC decisions to the state appeals board, charter school applicants would be afforded due process and fair and equitable treatment.

The Weekly Schedule

Identified by bill number, the sponsors and summaries for bills scheduled to be considered in committee or on the House floor are posted below.  More information regarding these bills can be found at PAHouseGOP.com by clicking on the “Research Bills” tab.