Budget Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk Absent Revenue Package

Last week, in the days leading up to the end of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, the House and Senate engaged in a back-and-forth with S.B. 1073 – the General Fund budget bill. First, the House voted 132-68 on a $31.55 billion spending plan that represented a 4.8 percent increase in spending, which House Republicans proposed be funded through a combination of higher tobacco taxes, a tax amnesty program, gambling expansion and revenues through the new liquor reform law.

When the Senate received the bill, amendments were adopted before they passed the legislation 47-3. The amended bill appeared to spend $20 million less than the House-passed version while increasing higher education funding by $39 million, or 2.5 percent (the House plan level-funded higher education for the upcoming Fiscal Year). The Senate accomplished this by moving $95 million for the Commonwealth Financing Authority out of the General Fund into a restricted account, which is why the total spending figure appeared reduced. On Thursday, June 30 – the last day of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year – the Senate-amended version of S.B. 1073 was passed on concurrence by the House and sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, who applauded lawmakers for coalescing around a budget agreement and said he would sign the legislation once an agreement over revenue was reached.

Notably, the House and Senate votes on the budget bill this year earned strong bipartisan support. The bill substantially increases funding for basic education (a priority for the Wolf administration) with a $200 million increase, to a record $5.985 billion; and authorizes $15 million for the governor’s initiative to address the Commonwealth’s heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

However, to date, there has yet to be a final agreement on the revenue package to pay for this increase in spending. While a sales or Personal Income Tax increases appear to be off the table (increases to both were originally proposed in the budget plan Gov. Wolf put forth in February), a number of other revenue enhancers are being discussed. The House and Senate both stand in recess and are on a six-hour call of the Chair. They are expected to reconvene when a revenue agreement is imminent.

Dividend Declared for Chamber Business Insurance Program

Penn National Insurance has announced a one percent dividend for the fourth program year of the ChamberChoice Business Insurance program. Members who placed their insurance coverage with the program during the 2014/2015 program year will receive a dividend equal to one percent of their total premium. Over the past four years, Penn National Insurance has returned an average of 7% in dividends. In the four years of its existence, the program has returned over $132,000 to participating local member businesses of the Chamber.

An important aspect of this group insurance program is preventing loss and controlling claims costs. Because dividends are based on the group’s collective loss experience, a business that may have had a significant loss may still be eligible to receive a dividend.  The program is sold exclusively through local, independent agents who can offer Chamber members a variety of coverages and pricing on property and casualty insurance, including business owners, commercial auto, general liability, inland marine and workers’ compensation. Dividends are paid on all of these coverages. In addition, through safety consulting, Penn National Insurance and local independent insurance agencies encourage member businesses to develop safety practices to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries.

The Business Insurance program is just one of many benefits of Chamber membership. For more information about this year’s dividend, contact Fred Gaffney at [email protected]  To sign up for the program, call the Chamber at 570-784-2522.

Welcome the Chamber’s Newest Members

More than 600 businesses and organizations belong to the Columbia Montour Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy, and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes four organizations that joined in June to help us fulfill our mission:

2 Twisted Sisters – 518 B Walnut Street, Danville

Berwick Area Boat Club #454 – P.O. Box 94, Mifflinville

DRIVE – Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy – 114 Woodbine Lane, Suite 103, Danville

Prenault Corporation – 152 Franklin Avenue, Suite 200, Kent, OH

Additional contact information is available on the Chamber’s Online Directory.

A reminder that anyone who recommends Chamber membership will receive a $25 gift certificate when that organization joins.

Annual Golf Outing a Success

Last Thursday, eighteen teams participated in the Chamber’s annual Golf Outing at Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Club.  The event was a rousing success, and the Chamber would like to take this time to thank all of the generous business sponsors that made it possible, namely the overall event sponsor – Williams.  A special thank you also goes out to Knoebels and the Three Ponds Golf Club staff for all of their hard work in hosting a well-organized and enjoyable tournament.

Several teams stood out on the course during the tournament.  The top overall finishers in the first flight were the golfers from 3B Cleaning and Floorcare; Brian Snyder, Nate Snyder, BJ Snyder, and Jim Henninger.  Their winning score was a 16-under round of 55 (par 71).  The second-place team, also with a 16-under score, was the team from First Keystone Community Bank; Matt Prosseda, Jonathan Littlewood, Gene Morrison, and Mike Boone.   In the second flight, the winning team finished with a 4-under round of 67.  The top golfers in this flight were from First Columbia Bank & Trust; Lance Diehl, Jeff Hill, Jeff Whitenight, and Matt Beagle.  The second place team also finished with a 4-under round of 67 and represented Service 1st Federal Credit Union; Tom Rambo, Joe Reinard, Karen Wood, and Jenna Ward.

The winner of the skins competition was the Williams #2 team; Greg Galante, Brad Kemerer, Wesley Smith, and Jason Neidig.   Other Winners: Men’s Longest Drive: Jason Taylor Women’s Longest Drive: Karen Wood Men’s Closest to the Pin: Jonathan Littlewood Women’s Closest to the Pin: Jodi Berry Putting Contest: Bryan Snyder   Thanks to everyone who participated and made the outing a memorable one.  We look forward to seeing everyone in next year’s tournament as well!

State Budget Talks Continue Facing Thursday Deadline

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

In the final week of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, a budget agreement for 2016-17 remains a work in progress. Legislative leaders in the House and Senate met twice on Sunday, and told reporters that they are moving ever closer to an agreement on a final spending number. According to media reports, the bipartisan budget deal that was taking shape was jelling somewhere between $31 billion and $32 billion. Differences are still being worked out over new sources of revenue, although cigarette taxes, increased liquor sales and expanded gaming are said to factor into the revenue equation.   In an effort to generate more non-tax revenue for state spending, the House adopted a gaming expansion amendment last week that allows for internet-based gaming for players 21 years of age and older; permits players 18 years of age and older to participate in daily fantasy sports betting; authorizes the state’s five racetrack casinos to put slot machines at a certain number of off-track better parlors; allows for slot machines at airports; and changes rules related to resort casinos and sports wagering. All told, the House-passed gambling reform package is projected to net between $150 million to $200 million in annual revenue for the Commonwealth.

Before the House adopted the gaming reform amendment by a bipartisan 115-80 vote, the chamber voted down another amendment that would have implemented these changes, plus legalized video poker and other gaming machines in bars.   Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf announced early last week during a radio interview that he has taken personal income and sales tax hikes off the table in 2016-17 state budget negotiations. While he is still asking for $250 million for basic education and $34 million to combat the state’s heroin crisis, he said during the interview: “I think all this can be done without a broad based tax increase. I’m not asking for a Sales Tax increase or Personal Income Tax increase. I think we can do all this; the balanced budget, the increase in education and heroin initiatives without a broad based tax increase. So, I think that we’re making some good progress. I think we’re very close.”