Work to be Done on State Budget

House and Senate lawmakers return to Harrisburg for session this week. With less than two months until the end of the Fiscal Year, they will have to take into account the state’s $1.2 billion revenue shortfall and incorporate that reality into their plans for spending in 2017-18. The law requires that the budget must be balanced; therefore, further cuts to spending, new taxes or other proposals to generate revenue will be necessary to close the gap. The House awaits Senate action on H.B. 218, the budget vehicle they passed a little more than a month ago that relies on gaming expansion and liquor reforms to generate new revenue, which the Senate Appropriations Committee could take up as early as this week.

On Friday, Senator John Gordner expressed concern about gaming expansion generating significant new revenue. He feels gaming in Pennsylvania may be at a saturation point, and that further expansion may result in reduced lottery proceeds for senior citizen programs. His comments were made at the budget breakfast sponsored by the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau held at The Greenly Center in downtown Bloomsburg. Representative David Millard and Harold Hurst from Rep. Kurt Masser’s office also participated.

Jennifer Reis, Manager of Government Affairs with the PA Chamber of Business & Industry, provided an overview of $32.2 billion budget proposed by Governor Wolf, as well as the $31.5 billion spending plan advanced by the House. While the Governor’s budget did not address the state’s public pension crisis, Senator Gordner believes that legislation to provide a long-term solution will be advanced and signed by the Governor. As the state Supreme Court would likely declare any changes in benefits to existing employees unconstitutional, a solution for immediate relief is unlikely.

Senator Gordner and Representative Millard felt confident that a budget bill will be provided to the Governor by the June 30 deadline.

New Hire Reporting Benefits Employers and Children

Each year, timely and accurate new hire reporting by employers results in increased child support collections (between $30 million to $50 million) for Pennsylvania’s children. Employer outreach and education — focusing on the importance of timely and accurate reporting of new hire data (because it directly impacts dependent children who are owed child support) — is critical to the continued success of this program. Pennsylvania’s New Hire Reporting Program within the Department of Labor & Industry offers resources to understand the system.

Employers also directly benefit from new hire reporting, because the new hire data they submit to us are matched to Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation claimant data, and often result in reduced UC and Workers’ Compensation fraud overpayments. This saves employers millions of dollars each fiscal year in possible fraud overpayments — over $38 million in total since 1998.

But these results only come about if employers are aware of the Program, and the federal and state laws that mandate new hires be reported to the Commonwealth—employer reporting is not optional, but is required by law.

Additional information about new hire reporting is available through the CareerLink website, or by calling 1-888-PAHIRES (888-724-4737).

PPL Electric Utilities Expands Reliability Upgrades

PPL Electric Utilities continues to add smart grid automation on its system to increase reliability.

Smart grid improvements have been a major factor in allowing the utility to reduce the number of outages by 30 percent since 2007. The next five years are expected to bring another 15 percent improvement.

The company reports about 4,600 smart grid switches have been installed across its service area since 2012, when the first smart grid pilot project launched in the Harrisburg area. Now, there are smart grid devices nearly everywhere on the utility’s system which covers all or part of 29 counties in central and eastern Pennsylvania.

These switches, and the computer brains behind them, automatically detect a problem on the grid and work within minutes to isolate the affected area and reroute power around the trouble spot.

Included in the total number of switches installed so far are about 600 switches added this year. More installations are planned over the next few years and the system should be fully outfitted by the end of 2020. By that time, more than 5,000 smart grid switches will be part of the PPL grid.

The utility’s smart grid work recently was honored by the Southeast Electric Exchange, an industry group, with an Industry Excellence Award. PPL’s reliability satisfaction score is among the leaders nationwide, according to J.D. Power.

Education Tax Credit Application Period Approaching

For businesses that have participated in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, May 15 is a critical date. The popular state program provides funding for Pre-K scholarships, scholarships for private schools, and educational enhancement programs like those supported by the Chamber’s Foundation. Despite increased allocations to the program in recent years, eligible businesses are strongly encouraged to submit applications on the early enrollment date.

Important points to note are:

1.  Companies that have fulfilled a two-year commitment in their most recently completed fiscal year continue to receive preferential treatment by being allowed to file for a new “initial” application between May 15th and June 30th for the start of another two-year commitment. Moreover, those companies will be able to increase the amount they are applying for as the limit of combined credits for any fiscal year is up to $750,000. Companies that wish to make contributions to Pre-K Scholarship Organizations may receive a tax credit equal to 100% of the first $10,000 contributed and up to 90% of the remaining amount contributed up to a maximum credit of $200,000 annually.

2. Businesses applying for Pre-K credits may now choose to make a two-year commitment. Companies supporting Pre-K organizations now also receive the “preference” for filing on May 15th, having successfully fulfilled a two-year commitment in their most recently completed fiscal year.

3. All EITC applications must be filed electronically. (This will include companies filing for their second-year credits beginning on May 15th.) Paper applications are no longer accepted. Once a company has established a “profile” online, almost everything will be completed electronically. DCED no longer requires applicants to mail the signed signature page.

The current guidelines are now available on the DCED website. The applications are now available online but cannot be filed until May 15. Businesses that are not currently active in the program must wait until July 3 to apply. Due to the recent allocation increase, and current legislation that would further increase the allocation, interested businesses may want to consider submitting a new application on that date.

The Chamber has been advocating since 2014 that the application process be open to all Pennsylvania-based businesses at the same time. A letter renewing that call was recently sent to Senator Gordner and the members of the Senate Education Committee, where the legislation is being considered.

Member News – May 3, 2017

Member News

 

Planet Fitness Hosts Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Tonight

Planet Fitness, holds a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. tonight, May 3, followed by a public grand opening event that will run until 7 p.m. at their new location in the Columbia Mall in Bloomsburg. There will be giveaways and raffle prizes. Danni Allen, 2013 winner of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, will also be on site to share her fitness journey, tips and lead group workouts. 

 

Geisinger Hosts “Caring for Every Woman” Tomorrow Evening 

Geisinger Health System hosts”Caring for Every Woman,” tomorrow, May 4, from 5–8 p.m. at the Pine Barn Inn, Danville. This free event will feature women’s wellness education and professional networking as well as live music, appetizers, health screenings and a physician panel discussion. Learn about the health issues facing women of all ages from physicians in neuroscience, urology, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopaedics and breast health. Seating is limited, so register at geisinger.org/events

 

Free Skin Cancer Screening in Danville

Geisinger Health System will provide free skin cancer screenings on Tuesday, May 9 from 1–5 p.m. at Geisinger Dermatology & Mohs Surgery, 115 Woodbine Lane, Danville. Appointments are required. To register, visit geisinger.org/events or call 800-275-6401.

 

Small Business Development Center to Host First Step Seminar in Bloomsburg

Have you ever thought about starting your own business, but weren’t quite sure if it would be right for you? Or maybe you want to know what paperwork you need in order to open your doors? These and several other common questions for small businesses will covered at the First Step Seminar given by the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on Friday, May 12, at noon at the Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. Business Incubator, 151 E. Main St., Bloomsburg. Laura Haden of the SBDC will speak about the different legal structures a business can be, how to write a business plan and create financial projections, and much more. Cost is $15 for the First Step book. Walk-ins are welcome but pre-registration is preferred. Register by calling 570-408-4334, email or online at pasbdc.org/events

 

First Columbia Hosts Chris Herren

First Columbia Bank will host speaker Chris Herren at Bloomsburg University on Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at Gross Auditorium in Carver Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. and this event is open to the public. The founder of the Herren Project, Herren is a former college basketball and NBA player who struggled with substance abuse for much of his basketball career and overdosed on heroin in June of 2008. With the help of friends and family, he has been clean since August 1, 2008 and has traveled the country telling his story to increase education and public awareness on the dangers of substance abuse and to ultimately help others one person at a time. He was also the subject of a 2011 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled Unguarded. 

This event is open to the public. However, seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information on this event, visit First Columbia’s website or Facebook page.

 

Public Meeting to Address Flood Impacts in Danville

Floods and flood insurance have impacted Danville Borough, and the public is invited to a meeting to learn about a flood resiliency initiative that aims to resolve many of these issues. The meeting will be held on Thursday, May 18, at 6 p.m. in the Borough Hall, 239 Mill St., Danville. The purpose of the meeting is to review flood mitigation ideas, gain a better understanding of residents’ needs and discuss preliminary survey results. It is part of a larger flood resiliency initiative being undertaken by SEDA-COG in several communities within Pennsylvania’s central region, and is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. For information, contact Jamie Shrawder at 570-275-3091.

 

Geisinger Seeks Community Members for Hot Air Balloon Festival Planning Committee

Geisinger Health System will host the inaugural Dream Big Hot Air Balloon Festival, October 6-7 at Spyglass Ridge Winery in Sunbury. In order to encourage participation and feedback from the community and gain more ideas, Geisinger is currently seeking additional community members to serve on a planning committee for this event. If interested in participating, please contact Linda Vaji at 570-214-2581 or email

 

First Columbia Announces Changes to Board of Directors

First Columbia Bank recently announced the retirement of board chairman Glenn Halterman. He had served as chairman of the board of directors since 2003 and on the board since 1984. Edwin Wenner was appointed to succeed Halterman as chairman. He has been on the board since 2014. The board also appointed Russell Cotner to serve as a director. Cotner is the president of Cotner Farms, Inc. and vice president of Boyd Station, LLC. For more information, read the entire press release