Archive for the ‘News Releases’ Category

Senator Hughes Statement on Protecting Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave Law

HARRISBURG – (April 14th, 2015) Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement on the need to protect the right of local municipalities to pass paid sick leave legislation:

“Two months ago, Philadelphia stood behind working families by providing over 200,000 workers the opportunity to earn paid sick days. Now Philadelphia’s historic legislation and others like it are threatened by some state lawmakers in Harrisburg. Today, the Senate is poised to consider Senate Bill 333, which will override Philadelphia’s paid sick leave ordinance and prohibit other municipalities from adopting similar legislation in support of working families.

Several supporters of Senate Bill 333 cite the need for uniformity, yet offer no statewide solution to ensure essential paid sick leave for working Pennsylvanians. Recognizing these concerns, I’ve introduced legislation to establish statewide parameters for local ordinances providing employee paid sick leave. Under my bill, which I also will offer as an amendment to Senate Bill 333, local officials may authorize workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Make no mistake; this is about economic justice for working families. It’s simply unconscionable that so many people—many of them making very low wages—are forced to come to work when they are sick, endangering themselves and others. The Pennsylvania Senate should support Philadelphia’s efforts, not deny hard working employees the opportunity to earn paid sick leave.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Hughes Issues Statement on Racially Insensitive Comments on State Trooper Nominee

Harrisburg – March 26, 2015 –Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) today released the following statement concerning racially insensitive comments printed in the Allentown Morning Call. Senator Hughes’ Statement follows:

“According to the article, retired Trooper Anthony DeLuca referred to an African-American member of Col. Marcus Brown’s staff hired to handle diversity and recruitment as a “bootlicking ToTo.” DeLuca, as a trooper, was responsible for protecting the peace for every citizen in this commonwealth while holding this reprehensible mindset.

“This is outrageous and disgusting. It is this kind of negative rhetoric that takes us as a society back decades and perpetuates the struggles that unfortunately still exist.

“To refer to any person in such a derogatory manner is beyond ignorant and offensive; but this is the voice of the opposition to Colonel Marcus Brown. It is a voice of hate and intolerance and represents a way of thinking that should offend everyone, not just those to whom the comment was directed.

“The question is simple — Will the Senate Republicans do the right thing and confirm Marcus Brown or will they give life to the hateful comments of the ignorant leader of the anti-Brown group.

“I am calling on all elected officials to repudiate these types of comments and recognize it is sentiments like these that are driving the smear campaign and rabid opposition in an attempt to destroy Marcus Brown. It is clear now that the opposition is against not only Marcus Brown but also diversity and that is unacceptable. We, as people, are better than this.

“This type of hate speech heightens our concerns and demonstrates why we need someone with the experience, integrity and commitment to diversity like that of Col. Marcus Brown.”

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Senator Hughes Offers Support to Acting Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown

Dear Governor Tom Wolf:

The recent report of a racist letter left anonymously at Acting Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown’s home causes me great concern,  not only because of the substance (The use of the “N” word) of the letter but also because of the troubled history of the Pennsylvania State Police around the issue of race.

As you know, the Pennsylvania State Police has a poor record regarding issues of racial diversity and hiring practices. It is long and troubling. In fact, a lawsuit was filed and a Federal consent decree was ordered to improve the hiring practices of the agency. The lawsuit was filed in 1974 by William Bolden and resulted in the “Bolden decree” which was in place until 1999.

Here are the facts: After the Federal decree was put into place and there was regular monitoring by a federal judge for over 20 years, diversity among hires increased significantly. In fact, 20 percent of all state troopers were people of color and they served at every level of the state police organization. That caused the decree to be lifted, which resulted in the percentage of non-white troopers to drop down to a dismal 6.25 percent. As of December 1st, 2014, only 280 members of 4,479 state police force were minorities.  That is where we stand today. This does not reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania’s population and is a throwback to an era when people of color were shut out of employment opportunities in state government, especially in the fields of law enforcement.

The letter delivered to Mr. Brown’s house also harkens back to those times. It also shows that some people who oppose his nomination are motivated by trying to keep the Pennsylvania State Police from becoming more diverse. Clearly, they are scared of Mr. Brown’s history of exemplary success in creating a diverse law enforcement agency in the communities where he has worked.

Needless to say, your support of his candidacy should be unwavering now more than ever. We have a choice. We can stand with someone who is an excellent officer and promotes a diverse and qualified workforce or we can stand with those who promote hate and intolerance through anonymous acts of cowardice.

I am choosing to stand with your nominee.

Sincerely,

Vincent J. Hughes
State Senator, 7th District

 

Sens. Hughes, Schwank to Propose Expansion of New ‘Revenge Porn’ Law

Measure would punish publication of “hacked” or stolen pictures

HARRISBURG, March 19, 2015 – To better protect Pennsylvanians from the unsolicited and embarrassing publication of their private, intimate pictures, state Sens. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said today they will introduce a proposal, similar to the recently enacted so-called “revenge porn” law, that would make it a crime for someone to steal and publish unauthorized images of strangers and others.

“The theft and distribution of naked or sexual pictures of someone other than a partner or former partner is much less common than the ‘revenge publishing’ of photos against a former partner, but last fall’s hacking of celebrity photos and videos shows that it happens,” Sen. Schwank said. “So, perhaps, might the recent events at the Penn State fraternity.”

Schwank said the new proposal would apply the same civil and criminal penalties as the law passed last year – which applies only to situations involving sexual or intimate partners – where the victim and perpetrator have no such relationship.

“We need to make sure we have strong enough sanctions to deter someone from unreasonably taking such pictures or making them public without the victim’s consent,” she said.

Sen. Hughes, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he is joining Sen. Schwank in this proposal because it’s the right thing to do.

“We must make sure that our laws evolve with technology,” said Hughes. “It is now incredibly easy to share photographs, videos, and other forms of media electronically. This is generally a positive thing, especially for staying in touch with our loved ones over long distances. However, we have to ensure that the public is protected from individuals who would use technology for nefarious purposes.”

If approved by the legislature, Schwank’s and Hughes’ proposal would make these acts a crime under the Invasion of Privacy law.

Under the “Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Images” law passed last year, posting sexual images to annoy or harm a partner or former partner carries potential penalties of up to two years in jail when an adult is the victim and up to five years when the victim is a minor.

Offenders are also financially responsible for the injuries they cause their victims, through civil suit.

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Senator Hughes to Introduce Universal Voter Registration Legislation to Automatically Register All Eligible Citizens to Vote

PHILADELPHIA- (March 9th, 2015) Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement about his intention to introduce legislation that would dramatically increase voter registration in Pennsylvania to include all eligible citizens:

“50 years ago, thousands of people marched in Selma, Alabama, to fight for the right to vote for ALL Americans. Many gave their lives in that struggle. We have made much progress as a nation since then, but the dream of universal access to the polls is something that is still yet to be obtained. To honor those who marched and died in Selma, I will be introducing legislation that will make it easier for individuals to register to vote in Pennsylvania. The idea is simple: State government will streamline the voter registration process by automatically registering all eligible individuals to vote when they use the services of a state agency.

“The legislation, based on a similar law in Oregon, would essentially change our voter registration system from an “opt-in” system to an “opt-out” system. Under current law, citizens are given the option to “opt-in” by filling out a voter registration form when they apply for a public benefit, service or license through the Department of Transportation or other state agencies currently authorized to assist with registering voters. Under my proposal, a state agency would automatically collect an individual’s relevant voting-related information with the application and send it electronically to the Department of State and to the counties for purposes of registering the voter. Prior to completing the registration, a voter would receive a notice allowing them to select a political party affiliation or to decline registration. If the individual does not “opt out” within 21 days, they will be added to the voter rolls.

“It is estimated that Oregon will add more than 300,000 new voters to its rolls in just a single year by implementing this system. This is something that Pennsylvania should be looking to copy and expand upon. Increasing voter participation should not be a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, but an American issue. We must honor the memory of those who died at Selma and for the right to vote by passing this legislation.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
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Senate Democrats: Wolf Budget Proposal Bold, Responsible, Necessary

Plan includes historic tax relief, business tax shifts, education, and job initiatives

Harrisburg – March 3, 2015 – Senate Democratic leaders today said that Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget proposal is a “bold, responsible and necessary” plan designed to address issues confronted by middle class families and it is so compelling that it will command the full attention of lawmakers.

The spending plan was detailed by the governor today before a joint session of the General Assembly.

“The governor deserves credit for proposing an aggressive approach aimed at solving Pennsylvania’s most pressing problems,” Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said about the $29.88 billion spending plan. “It is bold; it is responsible; and, it is necessary in light of the structural deficit that exceeds $2 billion, the gaping education funding hole and jobs deficit that Pennsylvania faces.

“This is not a plan built on gimmicks – it is an honest, substantial plan that comes with tough policy choices and revenue options that lawmakers will have to carefully weigh.”

The plan calls for $3.8 billion in property tax relief, $1 billion in education investments, $1.675 billion for job creation and restoration of social safety net program dollars all within the context of a modest 2.7 percent increase over the current year budget.

“This is not an incremental budget; it’s a transformational budget and a marked departure from the flim-flam sham budgets of the Corbett years,” said state Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is a significant proposal that includes welcomed and long-overdue policy initiatives in education, health care, jobs and fiscal management.

“We are at the start of the budget process, but the governor has laid down a big bet and a significant marker. Passivity and knee-jerk negativity should be checked at the door when negotiations begin in earnest.”

The new initiatives are paid for by adjustments in the Personal Income Tax, Sales and Use Tax, the imposition of a new gas severance tax, the elimination of tax exemptions and new efficiencies. It also includes tax shifts aimed at helping business such as a slashing of the Corporate Net Income tax and eliminates the Capital Stock and Franchise tax. The governor also called for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Hughes said that if the plan is adopted it will immediately change the direction of Pennsylvania and make critical investments. He said the plan has the potential to jump-start job creation, education achievement and health-care choices while restructuring the tax menu for individuals and business.

Costa said that the $3.8 billion in property tax relief coupled with $1 billion more for schools is “historic” and will push Pennsylvania past 50 percent in funding local school costs. The expected average tax relief for property taxpayers will exceed $1,000 per homestead and that the average homeowner will see their tax bill reduced by 50 percent.

“For years, citizens have asked for property tax relief, business leaders have called for cutting the corporate net income tax and schools officials have had to deal with deep cuts in school funding that have resulted in local tax increases, job loss or program elimination,” Costa said. “This budget addresses all those concerns.”

The Democratic leader said that while the plan is bold, it does come with costs and tax changes that must be evaluated in their proper context before final decisions are made.

“The governor’s plan invests in schools, relieves tax burdens, helps businesses and makes critical investments that have been found wanting over the last several years,” Hughes said.

Hughes said that the new $1 billion in education will replace dollars lost to deep Corbett-era cuts. He said that the new spending plan includes $120 million for pre-kindergarten and Head Start, $140 million more for higher education, cyber-charter reforms and a commitment to utilize a new basic education funding formula now being developed by an independent commission.

The Democratic appropriations chair said that many of the pieces of the governor’s plan have been sought by Senate Democrats through their “PA Works” plan and other initiatives.

“The governor has outlined policy proposals that would responsibly invest $1.675 billion in job creation programs,” Hughes said. “Using already approved bond authorization to fund transportation or water and sewer projects makes sense.”

Costa said that he is pleased that the governor has proposed using efficiencies to help balance the books and that his proposal to merge the Department of Corrections with Probation and Parole, transition to traditional Medicaid expansion and phase-in Medicaid long-term care will free up more dollars for even greater investments. The boldness of the plan should be of no surprise to anyone who followed the governor’s thinking, he said.

Wolf proposed using revenues generated from combined reporting to reduce the CNI to 5.99 percent on Jan. 1, 2016 and to 4.99 percent in Jan. 2018 from its current 9.99 percent. His plan calls for increasing the PIT from 3.07 to 3.7 percent and the sales tax from 6 to 6.6 percent plus closing a laundry list of exemptions, but not touching food, clothing or prescription drugs. The plan also calls for reconciling the state’s sales tax rate with Philadelphia’s local sales tax for schools so that the effective rate of the increase will remain uniform.

The budget plan will now be closely reviewed during upcoming hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The deadline to adopt a budget is June 30.

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Senator Hughes Statement on Governor Wolf’s Appointment of Majorie Neff to Chair the School Reform Commission

HARRISBURG, (March 1st, 2015) − Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement in response to Governor Tom Wolf’s appointment of Majorie Neff to be Chair of the School Reform Commission:

“I want to offer my support for Governor Wolf’s decision. It is a good thing to have an experienced and well respected educator in charge of the School Reform Commission and the education of our children. I also believe that Governor Wolf has a right and responsibility to put together a team that reflects the landslide victory delivered by voters in November. This team must reflect the will of the electorate. The people in Philadelphia clearly and unequivocally said they wanted a new direction at the School Reform Commission. The appointment of Ms. Neff accomplishes this goal.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Hughes is Available for More In-Depth Comment.

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Senator Hughes Statement in Support of Governor Wolf’s Decision to Impose a Moratorium on the Death Penalty in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, February 13, 2015 − Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement in support of Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to impose a moratorium on the death penalty:

“I want to commend Gov. Tom Wolf for taking the brave step of declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. This is something that I have supported for many years. I have deep concerns about how the death penalty is being applied, especially as it concerns both racial and economic bias.

There have been numerous studies that question the fairness in the capital punishment system. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that Pennsylvania had one of the highest percentages in the nation of people of color on death row. The same study found that African-American defendants were 38 percent more likely to face the death penalty.

Another study by the Innocence Project found that too many defendants face barriers where trying to access tools like DNA testing. This is best epitomized by the case of Nick Yarris, who served 21 years on Pennsylvania’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Like many defendants, he did not have access to technology that could have proved his innocence much earlier.

I believe that it is completely appropriate for the governor to exercise his powers in this regard as he is the one who must sign the death warrant and ultimately implement this final punishment. I look forward to continued reforms to ensure the Pennsylvania criminal justice system really does deliver justice for all of our citizens.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Senator Hughes Statement on Governor Wolf’s Announcement Regarding “Healthy PA”  

HARRISBURG – (February 9th, 2015) Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement on changes to “Healthy PA” announced today by Governor Tom Wolf:

“I want to praise Governor Tom Wolf for announcing today the first step towards transitioning away from so-called “Healthy PA” to true Medicaid expansion. Instead of simply accepting more than $4 billion in federal funds to offer more than 500,000 people health insurance in our proven Health Choices system, the former administration chose to create a complicated web of obstacles creating barriers for Pennsylvanians in need of critical health services. This is simply not fair and clean, straightforward Medicaid expansion fixes this injustice.

“We also know that this decision makes fiscal sense for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Operating a complicated, layered system chips away at the estimated $400 million in annual savings Medicaid Expansion brings for the state budget. These savings are desperately needed given the structural deficit grown over the past four years. Once again, I want to offer my support for the bold steps announced by Governor Wolf today.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Hughes, Haywood Propose 8 Percent “Shale For Our Future” Tax

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 5, 2015 — Surrounded by local educators and parents, state Sens. Art Haywood and Vincent J. Hughes today announced legislation to impose an 8 percent tax on Marcellus Shale gas along with the 1.9 percent impact fee.

Joined by Sen. Larry Farnese, Haywood and Hughes said most of the revenue, which could reach nearly $2 billion a year within a few years, will go toward public education, the underfunded pension liability and environmental protection.

“When many of our most critical programs are underfunded, yet we have an abundance of natural resources, what we really have is a compassion deficit,” Haywood said. “As one of the top producers of natural gas in the nation, it is time to join a vast majority of gas-producing states and enact a shale tax that strengthens our shared future.”

Hughes, the Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman, said the bill could generate more than $1 billion for next year’s budget.

“The policy of the last four years is no longer acceptable and Pennsylvanians have made that abundantly clear in recent months,” Hughes said. “A fresh start for our state begins with a system of taxation that is fair, sustainable and accountable to the people.”

In addition to the tax, the bill would retain a 1.9 percent impact fee in order to continue payments to local governments affected by the drilling.

Haywood said the most critical need for the funding is public education.

“With the second highest shale production in the country, there is no reason our schools should lack basic resources, while extraction goes untaxed. We cannot allow industry to invest in our state without investing in our children’s future,” he said.

Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers joined the senators at the conference in support of the proposal, stressing the need for increased funding in a District where some schools no longer have the resources to teach subjects that are crucial for state exams.

Judith Grant, a teacher at Spring Garden Elementary School, said that in the current underfunded state “teachers have to reach into our own pockets to provide resources for our students. There is a difference between providing something extra and providing basic necessities like pencils and paper.”

Cheltenham Township School Board Director Bill England also spoke in support of the proposal, saying it is “an opportunity to move our state forward” from one of the lowest in the nation for school funding.

From the revenue raised in the proposal:

  • $100 million dollars would go to the Growing Greener Program;
  • 60 percent of the money would go to fund Public Schools; and
  • 40 percent would go towards reducing the unfunded pension liability.

“Deteriorating public schools and short-funded pensions are two dark clouds that hang over young Pennsylvanians and we owe it to them to make sure we don’t pass them on,” Hughes said. “It’s time to step up and make the tough decisions that will ensure opportunity for every child in every school in every school district.”

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Senator Hughes Praises Commonwealth Court Decision on School Reform Commission Attempt to Cancel Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ Contract

PHILADELPHIA- (January 22nd, 2015) − Senator Vincent Hughes issued the following statement in response to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s decision to prohibit the Philadelphia School Reform Commission from unilaterally canceling the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers:

“This is a great decision by the Court that prohibits the School Reform Commission (SRC) from trying to circumvent the collective bargaining process. We are now at a point where the Commonwealth Court has spoken and both sides can get back to the bargaining table. I strongly encourage the SRC to forgo any appeal to this decision and start working proactively with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to fairly negotiate a contract that benefits all parties.

“It’s important to remember that more than 5,000 school employees have been laid off in the past four years from the School District. The teachers that remained haven’t gotten a raise in three years. They have also offered significant concessions in negotiations, including additional payments by employees for health insurance.

“I am hopeful that the new environment, especially with a new governor in Harrisburg, will lead to a quick resolution. It’s now up to both the SRC and the PFT to come together and get a fair contract negotiated as quickly as possible.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Senator Hughes Statement on the Inauguration of Governor Tom Wolf         

HARRISBURG- (January 20, 2015) Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement on the inauguration of Governor Tom Wolf:

“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Governor Tom Wolf. I know that he will serve our great Commonwealth with distinction. He has a clear vision for putting Pennsylvania back on the right track and I look forward to working with him closely in the coming months to make those plans a reality. Together, we can create a bright future for all Pennsylvanians.

“However, we must also face the fact that there are enormous challenges that must be addressed. The biggest issue is a $2.3 billion deficit left by the previous administration. We will need to responsibly address the budget hole while fully funding our education system, raising wages for all, putting people back to work, and turning around distressed communities. Perhaps the greatest task is to address rising income inequality, which has left far too many working families behind as the wealthiest corporations avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

“We must tackle these challenges to move Pennsylvania forward for all of our residents. Today’s inauguration is the first step on a long and difficult journey, but I know that Governor Tom Wolf is up to the challenge. He is the right man to lead our Commonwealth at this difficult time and I have faith in his leadership to put Pennsylvania back on the right track.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Costa, Hughes: Corbett, Republicans Accountable for $2 Billion Deficit

Harrisburg – Dec. 3, 2014 – Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Phila.) said the $2 billion plus budget deficit disclosed at today’s Mid-Year Budget Briefing should be laid at the feet of Gov. Tom Corbett and his Republican legislative allies.

View 2014-15 Mid-Year Budget Briefing

The briefing, hosted by the Corbett administration, is an annual December event that provides a budget status report to legislative leaders.

Costa and Hughes’ released the following statements in reaction to today’s disclosure:

Sen. Jay Costa:

“The Republicans who created the $2 billion-plus deficit need to be accountable and take responsibility for closing this gaping hole. This was all so predictable. Senate Democrats couldn’t have been clearer about the budget gimmicks and short-term fixes that were contained in last year’s Republican budget.

“We said that the budget was badly flawed and that’s why we were so strongly opposed to the spending plan. The Corbett administration and Republicans in the House and Senate need to acknowledge their role in making Pennsylvania’s fiscal house a shambles.

“The mid-year briefing was a sad closing commentary on failed, short-sighted policies. It’s clear that the Corbett administration failed to have a plan on how to manage resources and provide strategic investments to move Pennsylvania forward.”

Sen. Vincent Hughes:

“The cause of the problem is simple: Over the past four years Republicans failed to articulate and implement a jobs plan that makes growing our economy a priority. Going from ninth to dead last among all states in job creation in four years demonstrates how little attention has been paid to actual state of Pennsylvania’s economy.

“What is even more frustrating is, despite their lack of vision, creativity and effective policies, the Corbett administration and the Republican-controlled House and Senate still found a way to reward their corporate friends with billions in tax cuts at the expense of education, social safety net programs and the middle class.

“Senate Democrats have predicted this result since year one of the Corbett administration. Unfortunately, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate were willing co-conspirators in the pilfering of the commonwealth’s finances. Now we must focus on the arduous task of placing Pennsylvania back on strong financial ground. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Wolf and the new leadership in the House and Senate Republican caucuses to make sure that happens.”

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 Media contact:
Stacey Witalec, 717 877-2997
Senate Democratic Caucus and Sen. Jay Costa
switalec@pasenate.com

Ben Waxman
Office of Sen. Vincent J. Hughes
215-266-4598

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Senator Hughes Reacts to the Independent Fiscal Office’s Projected Nearly $2 Billion Budget Deficit

PHILADELPHIA- (November 13th, 2014) – Senator Vincent Hughes issued the following statement in response to the Independent Fiscal Office’s projection that Pennsylvania has a budget deficit of nearly $2 billion:

“I am disturbed but not surprised to learn that Pennsylvania has a growing budget deficit, estimated by the Independent Fiscal Office as being nearly $2 billion. This is a direct result of the irresponsible fiscal policies pursued by the Corbett Administration. It is also exactly why the entire Senate Democratic caucus voted against the most recent budget. The numbers simply did not add up and today’s news is another confirmation of that fact.

“This is also the reason that major credit rating agencies have downgraded Pennsylvania’s bond rating multiple times. As a result, it is now more expensive for our Commonwealth to borrow money and finance important economic development projects. This is another legacy of the failed fiscal policies of the Corbett Administration.

“Today’s news is another reminder that it’s time to move in a new direction. State lawmakers must work with Governor-elect Wolf to implement responsible fiscal policies. We simply cannot allow a growing tide of red ink to drown Pennsylvania’s future.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Lawmakers Learn About Housing Needs of Vets at McKeesport Roundtable

McKeesport – September 5, 2014 – Lawmakers who participated in Friday afternoon’s roundtable discussion at the James R. Brewster Community Center in McKeesport learned first-hand about the needs of veterans and the obstacles they face when they try to find adequate housing.

“There is no question that we have significant challenges before us in trying to meet the housing needs of veterans,” Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said.  “Fortunately, as a result of both legislative initiatives and community involvement we can make inroads and help those who served our country.”

Brewster co-hosted the roundtable discussion along with Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vi4ncent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery).  Brewster and Hughes welcomed Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) to the discussion of legislation (Senate Bill 1135) that provides for veterans preferences in public housing.

Hughes is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1135, which passed Senate unanimously on July 1 and it is now in the House Urban Affairs Committee awaiting action.  Brewster and Costa are among a number of Democratic and Republican senators who have signed onto the measure as co-sponsors.

Local veterans, representatives of veteran’s groups, housing authorities, the Allegheny County executive’s office, and officials from the regional Housing and Urban Development and the NAACP McKeesport Unit outlined both challenges faced by veterans and programs that provide assistance.  The mayors of McKeesport and Duquesne along with Brian Hudson, executive director and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, provided insight about the housing needs of veterans.

“I introduced the legislation establishing veterans’ preferences because I believe we have the means available to help those who served in our armed forces,” Hughes said.  “It is a shame that veterans are going homeless when we could act swiftly to make sure they have a roof over their head.”

Under the measure, a housing authority would give first preference for housing to homeless veterans.  Disabled veterans would receive second preference for public housing followed by families of deceased veterans.  Once these preferences are cleared, then all other veterans and their families would be eligible.

Costa said that “providing access to quality housing for our veterans is the least that we can to repay them for their sacrifice.  The passage of this legislation is an excellent way to assure that those veterans in need receive help in finding a home.”

Smith said that it was unacceptable that veterans go homeless each evening and that action should be taken to immediately address this problem.  He said that Pennsylvania lawmakers should approach issues impacting veterans holistically and that attention should also be directed to job training, health care and workforce development.

Hughes pointed out that on any given night 1,500 veterans in Pennsylvania are homeless.  He also said that, according the United States Veterans Administration establishing permanent housing for veterans is critical in meeting behavior health needs.

Brewster also said that he was pleased that the McKeesport Housing Authority was building handicapped accessible units that would be made available to veterans and that other local public housing that could help veterans is also being built.

Following the roundtable discussion, Brewster led lawmakers and officials on a tour of an adjacent handicapped-accessible housing unit that would be available for veterans.  He said that once public housing projects are completed in McKeesport and Duquesne, there would approximately 100 housing units that could be used by veterans if the legislation is approved.

“I hope that this discussion can help highlight the issue, our proposed solution and pressure can be applied to push legislation through that helps veterans,” Brewster said.

Contact: Hugh Baird
Phone: 717-787-5166
Email: hbaird@pasente.com

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Costa, Hughes Comment on Corbett’s Healthy PA Following Federal Approval

Harrisburg – August 28, 2014 − Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) issued the following statement following federal approval of Medicaid expansion for Pennsylvania.

Statements from Costa and Hughes follow:

Sen. Jay Costa:

“The approval of the long-delayed Medicaid expansion is in close proximity to the position that Senate Democrats adopted long ago.   However, the delay in approving the plan has come at great cost.   There has been more than $1.7 billion lost in federal money, over $300 million in budget savings that were not realized, and half-million Pennsylvanians were denied access to health care needlessly.

“It is good that Pennsylvania has now moved toward expanding Medicaid.   We believe that all Pennsylvanians should have access to quality health care. We are very concerned about the details and the implementation of this expansion, especially as it relates to those who may not be able to afford the cost of insurance premiums.

“There has been too much delay as the governor searched for a political solution to a health care problem. The governor’s private insurance model was rejected and the federal government approved a plan that incorporated the Senate Democratic proposal to use the established managed care system to deliver benefits. We are pleased that the governor is finally turning down the path cut by Senate Democrats more than a year ago.”

Sen. Vincent Hughes:

“The governor has moved toward the full adoption of Obamacare for the citizens of Pennsylvania. Had we acted sooner, we could have provided the much-needed assistance and made life better for hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable this year.  The governor has finally accepted what the Senate Democrats have said over a year ago. It is not perfect and has taken far too long to put in place.

“While we are cautiously optimistic that the Medicaid expansion may reach the half million Pennsylvanians who would have been covered a year ago, we realize that there are many unresolved questions and issues that may impact thousands of our citizens.

“It is an open question whether Pennsylvanians will be able to afford health care access with the requirement that those above the federal poverty level must pay premiums beginning in 2016. We need to study the details of the plan and be willing to make changes if political winds change.”

Contact: Stacey Witalec
Telephone: 717 877-2997
Email: switalec@pasenate.com

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Senator Hughes Responds to Decision to Open Philadelphia Public Schools

PHILADELPHIA- (August 15th) – Sen. Vincent Hughes released the following statement today in response the announcement that Philadelphia public schools will open on time:

“While I am grateful that students and parents will not have to deal with the disruption of our public schools opening late, I am deeply concerned that the continued lack of adequate funding will further erode conditions in our classrooms. The cuts that were announced today, as well as the ongoing insecurity given the lack of additional funds from Harrisburg, are simply unacceptable. The lack of commitment to our public schools in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth has become a national embarrassment.

We already know that current funding levels are not enough to create an environment to prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st Century. Conditions in our public schools were deplorable last year and now the system is gearing up for a repeat at best, with likely even less funding and more cuts to vital programs. We cannot expect our children to shine academically while providing them with such woefully inadequate resources.

I am also concerned that once again the hardworking staff of the Philadelphia public school system has been asked to make more sacrifices to close the budget gap. The system has let go more than 5,000 employees and closed over 30 buildings in the past three years. Quite simply, school workers have done their part to help. The fault lies with state lawmakers for not providing enough money for our schools, including Governor Tom Corbett who cut statewide education funding by more than $1 billion in his first budget.

The state legislature is currently scheduled to return on September 15th. We must immediately pass the $2-pack cigarette tax authorization so that no more time is lost to collect that revenue. However, that is not enough. Lawmakers must also immediately consider other options to provide funding for Philadelphia schools. We have a moral responsibility to do what is right for our students who are currently being left behind by the irresponsible actions of adults.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Senator Hughes Calls for PA House to Return and Vote on Philadelphia Cigarette Tax

PHILADELPHIA- (July 31st, 2014) Senator Vincent Hughes issued the following statement in response to news that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has cancelled scheduled session days for next week:

“The failure of the Pennsylvania State House to return means in very real terms that the Philadelphia School District will lose $1.6 million for every week that the cigarette tax is not passed.  That is money that the school district desperately needs in order to just maintain an educational environment that is barely sufficient to prepare children for the 21st century.

“It was expected that the House would pass House Bill 1177, which would have included authorization of an increase in Philadelphia’s cigarette tax. The Pennsylvania Senate stood ready to return later in the week to vote on the legislation if it was amended by the House.

“This lack of action is catastrophic, since both Mayor Michael Nutter and Superintendent Dr. William Hite have said that our schools will not be able to safely open in September without additional funds.

“Some lawmakers have floated the idea of advancing future payments already scheduled to be made to the Philadelphia School District, but this is not a real solution. It also leaves the district with an equal hole that must be filled. We need lawmakers to return to Harrisburg and do what is right for Philadelphia schools.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 

Corbett’s Action on Budget Illustrates Republican Dysfunction

Harrisburg – July 10, 2014 – Members of Senate Democratic Leadership issued the following statements concerning Gov. Tom Corbett’s line-item veto of funding for the General Assembly and his renewed call for lawmakers to consider pension reform:

Senate Democratic Leader, Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said:

“Governor Corbett’s action today clearly illustrates the Republican gridlock and dysfunction that has descended on state government. It is hard to fathom what Governor Corbett believes he can achieve. This is a Republican budget mess, crafted solely by Republicans and delivered to the citizens of Pennsylvania by a party that lacks leadership at the top.

“The line-item veto of a portion of the General Assembly’s funding does nothing to address the needs of Pennsylvania. His actions today will not help schools students, job seekers or the vulnerable in need of assistance. The budget, and his actions, are politically-driven and do not solve problems.”

Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said:

“The General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government and should not be held hostage to the ideological whims and political demands of a governor who is struggling to find his footing in an election year.

“His renewed call for the legislature to revisit a pension reform plan that could not navigate its way through the House, let alone the Senate, epitomizes a Republican Party that is bankrupt of ideas trying to push a pension plan that will bankrupt Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.”

Senate Democratic Whip, Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) said:

“The governor’s actions today, and his indecision and dawdling over the last ten days, reinforce the need for Pennsylvania to go in a new direction. There is no question that we need leadership now because we are going the wrong way under Governor Corbett.

“The budget that was passed is filled with gimmicks and accounting tricks, many of which the governor himself outlined. Renewing debate on a pension plan that is short-sighted and ill-constructed combined with a line-item veto of legislative funds will not force the General Assembly to buckle and act against the interest of the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

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Senator Vincent Hughes Denounces “Sham” Budget Passed by PA Senate

HARRISBURG- June 30th, 2014- Senator Vincent Hughes issued the following statement in response to the passage of HB 2328 by the Pennsylvania Senate:

“Today, in an effort to pass a budget bill before the start of the new fiscal year, Senate Republicans advanced a $29.1 billion spending plan to the House of Representatives. This budget bill, which will make it to Governor Corbett’s desk for his approval tonight, is both a sham and a farce; a obvious attempt at a spending plan which creates no sustainable revenues, and fails to appropriately fund schools, job creation, and human services. This is flim-flam sham budget does nothing but move Pennsylvania backwards.

“The misguided spending plan is balanced using more than $2.5 billion in budget gimmicks, bloated revenue estimates, and one-time fund transfers. Rather than explore options for sustainable revenues such as a Marcellus Shale severance tax or Medicaid expansion, Governor Corbett and Pennsylvania Republicans have instead decided to implement budget tricks that will leave the Commonwealth with a structural deficit for 2015, and beyond. These revenue pillars are so shaky, that the General Assembly may be forced to return to make significant repairs to the spending plan early next year. Frankly, this budget is not worth the paper it will be printed on.

“Senate Republicans will praise the $300 million added to education in their spending plan, without mentioning that these funds are only a small step to restore the $1 billion cuts in education spending authored by the Governor throughout his tenure. As a result of this shortfall, local property taxes are likely to again increase throughout the state. Once again, because of Governor Corbett’s inability to take responsibility for poor budget decisions, local property taxpayers and school students will be forced to shoulder the burden of this spending plan.

“After reviewing the budget passed by Senate Republicans today, it is clear to me that their only goal was to finish the budget on-time; without any concern about getting it right for the people of Pennsylvania. The passage of this spending plan is simply a failure, as it will only perpetuate the budget problems facing the Commonwealth, throughout the next fiscal year.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Vincent Hughes Applauds Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee for Unanimous Passage of Veteran Housing Bill

HARRISBURG- June 18th, 2014- Senator Vincent Hughes issued the following statement in response to the passage of Senate Bill 1135 by the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee:

“Today, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee passed new legislation which amends the Housing Authorities Law of 1937, to provide public housing preference to veterans of the U.S. military. By passing this bill, the committee has taken a huge step towards ensuring that our veterans and their families will be cared for, and that homelessness among veterans will soon vanish in Pennsylvania. I would like to thank my colleagues Senator Argall and Senator Brewster, who co-chair the committee, as well as all of the other members who voted in the affirmative, for ensuring that this important piece of veteran’s affairs legislation will head to the Senate floor.

“On any given night, approximately 1,500 veterans within the Commonwealth are homeless; this number is 1,500 too many. It is simply unacceptable for any veteran to be without a home after pledging to serve our country and protect our freedom. With the number of homeless veterans continuing to increase within the state, and many veterans currently in imminent danger of losing their home, the time has come to put a stop to this growing problem. The new legislation which passed through the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee today will certainly help in this endeavor to reduce, and eventually eliminate, homelessness amongst veterans in Pennsylvania.

“Many of our veterans already face numerous challenges when transitioning from active duty to civilian life, and finding housing should not be one of these challenges. Under the new legislation, we can ensure that veterans and their families are able to swiftly meet their housing needs, and that they will not be forced to deal with the added stress of living without a home.

“The actions of my colleagues in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee today are a great first step towards eliminating this problem in the Commonwealth. When the bill reaches the floor of the Senate for a vote, I hope there is bipartisan support for this necessary piece of legislation, and that it soon crosses the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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