Budget Hearings Focus on Accountability in Tax Dollar Spending
2/17/2019
 
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The latest news from PA State Representative Rosemary Brown


District of Character
The “District of Character” is an initiative I created to enhance character development and promote daily reminders for residents of the 189th District about how we can create a stronger community without policy changes. No one is perfect, but we can always work to improve our character daily.
February word of the month is “Faithfulness.”

“Steadfast in affection or allegiance; loyal.”


Budget Hearings Focus on Accountability in Tax Dollar Spending

As a member of the House of Appropriations Committee, I joined my colleagues in holding our first series of 2019-20 state budget hearings this week. The hearings are designed to give members the opportunity to question state officials about their funding requests and ensure state government is accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars. Members will also focus on ensuring the budget supports policies that improve the state’s economic climate and support the creation of private sector jobs.

This week’s slate of hearings included appearances by the Independent Fiscal Office, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the departments of Revenue, Aging, and Conservation and Natural Resources.

The next week of hearings, beginning Monday, Feb. 25, will feature the departments of Corrections, General Services, Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Transportation, along with the Liquor Control Board and the Gaming Control Board.

The full schedule is available here. The site also includes video of the archived hearings once available.
 

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

 
The United Way of Monroe County recently launched a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

The program targets low-to moderate-income families in Monroe County. IRS-certified and trained volunteers will prepare and file eligible clients’ federal, state and local income tax returns for FREE with no hidden fees or charges.

The service is by appointment only and is available to anyone in Monroe County with a household income of $54,000 or less in 2018.

In addition, as an alternative for households with an income of $66,000 or less, United Way offers a FREE online tax preparation and submission process, powered by H&R Block, and supported through United Way. Simply visit MyFreeTaxes.com to prepare and submit your state and federal taxes.

 
Highway Safety Law Awareness Week 2019

 
As Feb. 17-23 is Highway Safety Law Awareness Week, Traffic Safety Coordinator for the Highway Safety Network, Tracy Fox (better known as “Safety Fox”), has some safety reminders and information for this initiative.

Removing Ice & Snow from your Vehicle: A driver faces fines up to $1,000 if snow or ice falls from the vehicle and it causes damage to another vehicle or serious injury or death to a pedestrian. The hood, roof, trunk and all windows need to be cleared of ice and snow. Remember to brush off headlights and taillights too.
Turn Around Don’t Drown: A driver shall not drive past, around or through a posted road is closed sign due to an existing or hazardous condition. The fine is up to $250. If an emergency services response is needed, including a tow truck, the fine increases to $500 and the driver will also be responsible for all emergency response costs.
Yielding to Pedestrians: When a traffic-control device is not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway at an intersection with a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Failing to do so is a fine of $50.
 
 
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications Available

 
Applications for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are now available on my website and at my district office.

The program is designed to help eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older to receive up to a $650 rebate from the property taxes or rent they paid last year.

To be eligible, homeowners must earn less than $35,000 a year and renters less than $15,000 with half of Social Security income excluded.

Certain supplemental rebates can boost homeowner rebates up to $975. The supplemental rebates are automatically calculated by the Department of Revenue for qualifying homeowners.

Residents should not pay a private entity for assistance in filing the forms. Copies of the forms, as well as assistance with filing them, are available at my office at no cost. Call (570) 420-8301 with any questions about the program.

Applicants should be prepared to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Applications are due by June 30.
 
 
Take Steps to Avoid Scams This Tax Season

As tax season begins, it is important to protect yourself and your family from scams and phishing schemes designed to steal your money or personal financial information.

One common scam to keep an eye out for involves phony “Final Demand for Payment” notices threatening the seizure of a taxpayer’s property if the recipient of the notice fails to make immediate payment.

Pennsylvanians should also beware of phishing schemes that use fraudulent email messages, deceptive software or malicious files that are designed to steal sensitive information, such as passwords, usernames or personal financial information.

To avoid these scams, individuals should not provide any personal information until they are sure they are speaking to a legitimate representative, keep an eye out for vague communications and never click on suspicious links or attachments.

Pennsylvanians should also know that any scenario in which they are asked to pay their debt with reloadable debit cards, gift cards or money wiring services are scams. No government agencies use these methods for payment.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax return was filed using your identity, contact the Department of Revenue’s Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov.
 

Deadline Approaching for 2019 Pennsylvania House Scholarships

Don’t miss the March 1 deadline for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship.

Each year the program awards four-year scholarships to two high school seniors preparing for post-secondary education. The program is open to graduating high school seniors who are Pennsylvania residents with plans to attend a Pennsylvania college, university or career school as a full-time student.

Students must have attained a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average in high school in order to be eligible for a scholarship. Other factors taken into consideration for the awards are a student’s commitment to community, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities and financial need.

The application is available here.
                        
The scholarship is privately funded by individual and corporate donors; no tax or other public funds are used. It is administered through the Foundation for Enhancing Communities.
 
 
Helping Our Veterans

Ensuring Pennsylvania’s 800,000 veterans get all of the benefits they have earned is an important mission of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and state lawmakers.

My office hosts veterans’ outreach hours at our district office with the American Legion to assist veterans with issues they may be having accessing benefits and services from the state or U.S. Veterans Administration. Ours takes place on the second Thursday each month, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next veterans outreach hours will be on Thursday, March 14. You must call and make an appointment at 570-420-8301.

Veterans are also encouraged to sign up for the DMVA’s Veterans Registry at  register.dmva.pa.gov to get timely information about state benefits, programs and services.

DMVA also offers two Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans that travel the Commonwealth to give veterans one-on-one assistance so they can learn about and apply for the benefits they have earned.

Each van is staffed with accredited veterans service officers and is wheelchair-accessible. Last year the vans visited 107 community events helping 1,500 veterans.
To learn more about the vans, and schedule one for a community event, click here. This page also includes a calendar of upcoming events.
 
 
PennDOT Offices Closed for Presidents Day

In observance of Presidents Day, all PennDOT driver license and photo centers, including the full-service center in Harrisburg, will be closed Saturday, Feb. 16, through Monday, Feb. 18. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, dmv.pa.gov.
 
Just a reminder: If you are encountering an issue with state government, please feel free to contact my district office. We are here to help you with the following services:      
 
 - Driver’s license and vehicle registration applications and renewals. 
 - Assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, special registration plates, vanity plates, and temporary placards for disabled persons).                         
 - PACE and PACENET applications for seniors.                         
 - State Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Work.
 - Voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications.                         
 - State tax forms.                         
 - Student aid applications.                         
 - Free state maps, state park information, and PA Vacation Guides.                         
 - Copies of legislation and tours of the State Capitol.                         
 - Referrals to agencies to resolve state-related matters. 
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Office Locations
143 Seven Bridge Road, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301 | Phone: (570) 420-8301
210 Ryan Office Building, PO Box 202189, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2189 | Phone: (717) 260-6171
Email: rbrown@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614
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