HARRISBURG, Pa. — A new year brings some of the same challenges as last year for Pennsylvania’s lawmakers, who continue to grapple with budget shortfalls, fees for natural gas drilling and regulations for small games of chance in social clubs.
The full-time Pennsylvania General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 17.
State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said the first few months of the year will be focused on negotiating a 2012-13 budget. He said he wants to see another “realistic budget” without a tax increase.
“We made that promise to the people, and we need to stick to that,” Rock said.
The GOP-controlled legislature made “tough decisions” for 2011-12, so those should help for the coming year, Rock said. He doesn’t expect the next budgeting cycle to be as challenging.
“We can’t go back to our old ways of spending and spending, and not addressing debt,” Rock said.
State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, said he feels additional reforms are needed regarding unemployment compensation, noting that Pennsylvania has $4 billion in debt in unemployment compensation funds borrowed from the federal government.
“Fiscal issues will continue to be one of the biggest challenges as we move forward in 2012. State revenues are now projected to be $750 million behind official estimates by the end of the fiscal year. We will be working to address our fiscal challenges without new and increased taxes,” Kauffman wrote in an email.
Kauffman, a proponent of welfare reforms, also said he wants continued focus on the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as “taxpayers demand greater accountability for the dollars spent.”
Other top issues are voter identification, prevailing wage and education reform, Kauffman said.
State Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said state spending cuts in 2011 prevented tax increases, a trend he wants to see continue this year.
“We cannot make progress in 2012 without taking steps to strengthen our economy,” Alloway wrote in an email.
An important way to improve the economy is to upgrade transportation infrastructure, so the state can attract and retain quality employers, Alloway said.
On Wednesday, state House Democrat leaders pledged support for bills that would phase in higher gas taxes and motorist fees to generate $2.5 billion a year for road and bridge repairs, the Associated Press reported.
The proposals are designed to implement changes recommended by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s advisory panel on transportation needs.
Alloway said Pennsylvania legislators must protect against waste, fraud or abuse of public programs and services.
“We must also ensure the tax dollars we invest in education are spent on programs and initiatives that benefit our students. ... We must also ensure that education dollars are not lost to waste or mismanagement,” Alloway said.
Redistricting brought new legislators to Franklin County starting this year. They are C. Adam Harris, a Republican from the 82nd House District; Dick Hess, a Republican from the 78th House District; and John H. Eichelberger Jr., a Republican from the 30th Senate District.
Harris represents portions of Fannett, Metal and St. Thomas townships. Hess, who represents all of Fulton County, will now represent portions of Montgomery, Warren and Peters townships, as well as the Borough of Mercersburg.
Eichelberger now represents Fannett, St. Thomas, Peters, Montgomery, Warren and Antrim townships, as well as the boroughs of Greencastle and Mercersburg.