Senator Gebhard E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Begins Review of Proposed State Budget
  • Department of Community and Economic Development Budget Hearing
  • Two Local Libraries Receive More Than $818,000.
  • REAL-Life Program At ELCO School District
  • Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info
  • Help is Available for Struggling Veterans
  • Mental Health Treatment is Available for Farmers
  • Recognizing National FFA Week
  • Local Events

Senate Begins Review of Proposed State Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee began public hearings this week on the proposed 2024-25 state budget.

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget plan would increase state spending by more than $3.2 billion, or about 7.1% above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will be all but impossible to balance budgets in the next five years without deep spending cuts and massive tax increases.

Among the highlights:

The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) hearing focused on the commonwealth’s ongoing structural deficit and future financial standing. The IFO’s projected revenues for 2024-25 are $825 million lower than those from the Shapiro administration. Additionally, the IFO director projected the current fund balance and Rainy Day Fund – the state’s emergency savings account – would both run out in 2026-27 under the governor’s budget.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) budget hearing included questions about how the new governance model for PASSHE and community colleges would be structured and when the transition would happen. Unfortunately, very little information was available. PASSHE’s chancellor was not included in the work group planning the merger, which caused concerns.

At the Department of Corrections and Pennsylvania Parole Board budget hearing, the committee sought an explanation for Shapiro’s new funding for the department totaling $229 million, which is $74 million more than the department requested. This followed the department overspending its 2023-24 budget by $100 million. The need to curb excessive spending on overtime was also discussed.

Find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at

Department of Community and Economic Development Budget Hearing

As chair of the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, I questioned Secretary Rick Siger on his plan to turn around Pennsylvania’s failing approach to economic development.  Sadly, the Commonwealth’s greatest export continues to be our children. I was encouraged by his focus on site development to encourage corporate investment.

You can see my full remarks below.

Two Local Libraries Receive More Than $818,000

I was happy to announce two grants totaling more than $818,000 were awarded for the rehabilitation of two local libraries through the Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Commonwealth Libraries.

Keystone Grants help public library facilities improve their operations, install equipment and upgrade security systems.

Libraries are the foundation of our communities as they help to offer opportunity to everyone by providing access to the internet and photocopiers. These tools help to connect people with family-sustaining jobs that improve their lives and boost our local economy – truly a win for everyone.

Hamburg Public Library in Berks County will receive $750,000 to improve accessibility. As the library was originally established in 1903, it needs a refresh so it can maintain its status as a community resource.

Lebanon Community Library in Lebanon County will receive $68,500 to remodel the public restrooms so they are compatible with Americans with Disabilities requirements. The funding will also be used to add two family restrooms.

REAL-Life Program At ELCO School District

Last week at ELCO School District, Junior Achievement of South Central PA‘s REAL-Life program provided students with a financial literacy and career-readiness forum. Half of the day, students learned how every-day budgeting can impact their financial outcomes. The other part of the day provided them with interview skills and resume tips.

These programs are very practical for students, and I was happy to stop by to see it first-hand.

Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding free webinars to assist college-bound students and their families with navigating the financial aid process.

Speakers will discuss planning for higher education financing, comparing financial aid offers and understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Register to attend the one-hour webinars, which run through July.

Help is Available for Struggling Veterans

Like anyone, veterans and their families can face unexpected circumstances that impose financial burdens. To help veterans who are facing challenging times, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs administers the Veterans Temporary Assistance (VTA) Program.

The VTA provides temporary financial assistance of up to $1,600 in a 12-month period to veterans or their surviving spouses who reside in Pennsylvania for food, shelter, fuel and clothing.

Learn more about how to qualify and apply.

Mental Health Treatment is Available for Farmers

Pennsylvania farmers and farm families live a stressful way of life, often filled with uncertainty. Rural areas have fewer therapists, and the work on a farm never stops.

While the circumstances farmers experience are unique, there is help available for those dealing with loneliness, sadness, stress or depression.

Professional treatment for mental health is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the free AgriStress HelpLine. Call or text a health care professional at 833-897-2474.

Recognizing National FFA Week

As agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s top industries, it is important to recognize National FFA Week, which runs from Feb. 17-24.

Farmers work hard so we can enjoy fresh, local fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses and milk. They help to reduce our dependence on other countries for our food supply so we don’t need to worry about being able to put food on the table.

A group of young farmers founded FFA in 1928, and the organization continues to play an important role in attracting future generations. After all, agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it involves science, business and more.

Local Events

Saturday, February 24, 8am-4pm: 2024 BSBA Introduction to Beekeeping
Berks County Agricultural Center (Berks, PA)
Click here

Saturday, February 24-25, 11am-4pm: Lititz Fire & Ice Festival – Maker’s Market
Downtown Lititz (Lancaster, PA)
Click here

Friday, February 24, 6pm-9pm: 2nd Annual Black History Month Gala
WEPA Empowerment Center (Lebanon, PA)
Click here


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