Budget Deal Expected Soon

Leaders in the PA House and Senate from both parties are optimistic that the 2016-17 budget will be passed on or near the June 30th deadline this year. A major motivator is that the entire House and half of the Senate members are up for reelection this fall. Details on how to close a $2 billion deficit have not yet been finalized.

The expectation of a budget deal was echoed by House Speaker Mike Turzai, House Appropriations Committee Chairs Bill Adolph and Joseph Markosek, Senate Appropriations Chair Pat Browne and Senator Jake Corman on Tuesday. All stated that this year’s negotiations are going much better than last year’s. The legislators met with chambers of commerce from across the state at the annual Chamber Day at the Capitol. The event was organized by the PA Chamber of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals. Republican leaders and the PA Chamber continue to push for reform of the state pension system, a major cost driver in the budget. The Commonwealth’s obligation for the coming fiscal year increases $500 million to $2 billion. Speaker Turzai stated that pension reform legislation currently in the House was agreed to by Governor Wolf last year. Any of the reforms being considered would not result in immediate savings for Pennsylvania taxpayers.

To help generate the additional revenue needed to meet this obligation, the expansion of gaming and the expansion of items and services subject to sales tax are being considered. Also on Tuesday, the House passed reforms to the state liquor system that will allow grocery stores to sell wine and expand beer sales at convenience stores. The reforms, which House leaders hope will lead to the eventual complete privatization of the liquor sales in Pennsylvania, is expected to generate an additional $150 million in revenue annually. Governor Wolf did not immediately indicate if he would sign the bill. Increases in the sales tax rate and personal income tax rates are off the table in the negotiations, according to legislators. Budget Secretary Randy Albright expects that some “gimmicks” and “one-time fixes” will be utilized by the legislature to bridge any remaining budget shortfall.

Talen Energy to Co-fire Montour Plant

Talen Energy Corporation has completed a feasibility assessment related to bringing natural gas to the power plant located near Washingtonville in Montour County and installing boiler modifications to enable a dual-fuel, also known as co-firing, capability. The company’s Board of Directors approved the project, which will enable the Montour plant to operate on coal, natural gas or in combination. Engineering and design work is already in progress and, based on obtaining all necessary permitting and regulatory approval, the anticipated completion date is the second quarter of 2018.

Based on the results of a competitive RFP process, the company is currently in the process of selecting a qualified third party to construct, own and operate a 15 mile lateral pipeline to bring natural gas to the 1,500 megawatt Montour plant. The estimated capital expenditure for plant modifications is approximately $70 million with additional pipeline expenses and payments to be made to the third party constructing the pipeline and regulating and metering station.

“Montour is a significant asset in the Talen Energy fleet and we are making the necessary investments to improve its competitive position in the market,” said Paul Farr, Talen Energy President and Chief Executive Officer. “The Montour plant is located in close proximity to one of the largest natural gas formations in the world, the Marcellus Shale.  Co-firing the plant to burn natural gas, produced in Pennsylvania, enables Talen Energy to leverage the strategic location of the plant.”

The pipeline company selected by Talen Energy will be responsible for obtaining all necessary environmental and construction permitting from the appropriate federal, state and local agencies. Talen Energy expects to announce additional details related to the pipeline, contractor and next steps as part of its typical quarterly reporting as those details become available. Last week’s announcement that private investment firm Riverstone Holdings LLC will acquire Talen Energy is not expected to impact this decision. That transaction is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Chamber Thanks Sponsors of Upcoming Golf Outing

Some of the sponsors for the upcoming Chamber Golf Outing at Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Club have been finalized, and the Chamber would like to take a moment to thank the following sponsors:

Sponsors:

Event – Williams

Beverage- Generations Construction, Inc.

Dinner- Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital

Dinner- MetroCast Communications

Lunch- Berwick Health and Wellness Fund of CSCF

Snack- First Columbia Bank & Trust

Hole-In-One- Alexander Family Buick GMC Truck

Hole Sponsors:

3B Cleaning & Floorcare

Berwick Hospital

Bloomsburg Carpet

Bodnar Sales & Service

Danville Child Development Center

First Keystone Community Bank

Gordner Coombs Insurance, Inc.

Hampton Inn-Bloomsburg

Hutchinson Insurnace Agency

PenTeleData

Service Electric

Steph’s Subs

The Farmhouse at Turkey Hill

The Inn at Turkey Hill

Turkey Hill Brewing Company

Villager Reality-Bloomsburg

Wagner’s Trophies & Engraveables

Zimmer Insurance Agency, Inc.

 

 

 

We sincerely appreciate all of your commitment!

Quality Living Guide Published

The Columbia-Montour Chamber of Commerce and Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau are pleased to announce the release of the Quality Living guide.  The publication is complete with high quality images and detailed information about Columbia and Montour counties.  It will be distributed as a tool to promote and grow our area’s economy.  The 40-page guide showcases everything that makes the area a desirable place to live, work, visit, and enjoy.  Sections include Healthcare, Education, Outdoor Recreation, Real Estate, Dining and Shopping, along with many others. Copies are available free for member use by contacting the Chamber office at 238 Market Street in Bloomsburg or by calling 570-784-2522. To see the new guide, click here.

Understanding New Overtime Regulations

Employers have until December 1, 2016 to comply with new overtime eligibility regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The update, announced May 18th, is expected to extend overtime eligibility to 4 million workers. Detailed information, including fact sheets for non-profit organizations, higher education, and local governments can be found on the Department’s website, along with a schedule of free webinars for all employers.

A few of the key details on the new rules:

•  The final rule increases the salary threshold under which most employees will be automatically eligible for overtime pay.  The current salary level required for exemption is $455 a week ($23,660 for a full-year employee), which was last updated in 2004, and the new exemption threshold will be $913 a week, or $47,476 per year.

•  Employers can take up to a 10% credit towards the salary threshold from commissions or bonuses as long as they are paid at least quarterly.

•  In addition, the change in the salary threshold also includes an automatic adjustment every three years. The adjustment will be tied to the 40th percentile of full time salaried workers in the lowest wage region of the country (currently the Southeast).

•  The overtime rule leaves intact the current “duties test” that employees must meet to be exempt, in addition to being paid a salary above the $47,476 threshold.

Legislation to block the new regulations has been introduced in the House (H.R. 4773) and Senate (S. 2707). The Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act would also require the DOL to perform a better analysis on the impact changes to the overtime threshold will have on small businesses, nonprofits, regional economies, and local governments, in any succeeding proposed rule.