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Senator Pat Browne


2016-17 Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee held its second week of public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed state budget for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year. The Appropriations Committee heard detailed reports from several cabinet secretaries and other officials over the three-day period of February 29, 2016 to March 2, 2016.

Here are some of the highlights and videos from the second week of budget hearings.

To read about the first week of Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings, click here.

Department of Corrections/Board of Probation & Parole

Senator Browne discussed with the Secretary of Corrections the concerns of rising pension and personnel costs at the Department of Corrections. Pensions have increased 772 percent over the past 10 years.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • The corrections system’s decrease in inmates, but increase in costs.
  • Safety threats posed by overcrowding.
  • The lack of mental health professionals.
  • Veterans Courts.

Department of Transportation

Senator Browne discussed with the Secretary of Transportation concerns over the increasing funds going to the state police from the Motor License Fund and the effects on funding for highway construction projects.

Discussion at the hearing included:

  • Status of Act 89 projects, particularly structurally deficient bridges.
  • The elimination of registration stickers and the use of plate readers by police.
  • A proposed change in driver’s license renewals from four to eight years.
  • Rural road maintenance.

Department of Labor & Industry

Senator Browne discussed with the Secretary of Labor and Industry access to Assistive Technology, which helps allow citizens with disabilities to keep their independence.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • The Vocational Rehabilitation Fund and potential changes to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Centers for Independent Living and assistive technology.
  • Unemployment Compensation reform/seasonal workers/call center wait times.
  • The Department’s technological deficiencies.

Department of General Services

Senator Browne asked the Secretary of General Services to discuss the “Go-Time” initiative and whether procurement-related savings are just one-year savings or if they are continual savings each year.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • Security efforts across the Commonwealth.
  • Concerns about facilities that need constant maintenance.
  • Efforts to reduce vacant state properties.
  • Leased vehicles.

Department of Aging

During Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing with the Secretary of Aging, Senator Browne discussed the need to ensure that seniors have access to services they need while at the same time achieving fiscal balance in the face of decreasing Lottery Fund revenue.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • PennCare and home- and community-based services.
  • Support and demand for PACE/PACENET and prices charged for drugs.
  • Increasing the retirement age.
  • The property tax burden on senior citizens.

Department of Agriculture

Senator Browne discussed with the Secretary of Agriculture during the Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings if a reduction in Agriculture programs and staff has created a concern regarding Agriculture’s role in PA’s economic growth.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • Flat state funding of agriculture research and extension.
  • Avian influenza.
  • State support for fairs and the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
  • Dog licenses and dog law enforcement.

State Related Universities

Senator Browne asked representatives from State Related Universities for the percentage of students that remain in PA for employment after graduation.

Discussion during the hearing included:

  • The affordability of college education and increasing student debt.
  • Retention and graduation rates.
  • Financial aid and the percentage awarded to Pennsylvania students.
  • The need for greater transparency in compensation decisions.


Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

Senator Browne voiced concerns with the Chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education over PA’s rank of 3rd in the Country for average debt per graduate.

Discussion during the budget hearing included:

  • Impacts of subsidizing underperforming universities.
  • Pension and benefit costs.
  • Percentages of graduates working in their field of study and staying in Pennsylvania.
  • Campus safety.

PEMA/Fire Commissioner

During Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing with the Director of PEMA and the Fire Commissioner, Senator Browne asked about the available fund balances for the Volunteer Companies' Loan Fund, that benefits volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue companies, and the 911 Emergency Services Fund.

Discussion during the budget hearing included:

  • PEMA’s new facility.
  • Coordination between county emergency management planners.
  • Costs of police and paid firefighters.
  • Preparations for train derailments involving hazardous chemicals.

More information on the budget, as well as photos, audio and video from the hearings, is available at:

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FAX: 610-821-6798
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Western Lehigh County
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FAX: 610-366-2329
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3256 Levans Road
Coplay, PA 18037
FAX: 610-769-5568
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