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capitolThe Senate was back in session last week – our third week in a row and the final week before we break for budget hearings.  There was a lot of legislative activity and unfortunately, from my perspective, not much of which I could support.

During a two-year legislative session, we as a Senate body consider hundreds of bills on a wide range of issues that affect communities and families all across the state, the most important of which is our annual budget.  Many of the issues that we address through legislation are controversial. Out of that controversy comes a deep appreciation and mutual understanding of how we can all work together to move Pennsylvania forward.  While I’d like to say that’s normally how this chamber operates, after last week, I sadly cannot. 

What Was behind Senate Abortion-Ban Vote? A Bit of GOP Muscle-Flexing: John L. Micek

By John L. Micek | February 8, 2017


Of all the issues confronting Pennsylvania, from a $70 billion pension debt to a $700 million year-end deficit to what they say are exploding Medicaid costs, why did Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Senate waste an afternoon debating a bill facing a guaranteed gubernatorial veto?

Now, mind you, it's not just any bill: It's legislation rammed through the Senate at warp-speed, imposing some of most extreme limits on a woman's access to abortion of any state in the country.

Continue Reading at »

My colleagues and I welcome the opportunity to meet challenging issues head on. However, we firmly believe there is a need for hearings and public comment.  There is nothing more important than giving all of you a chance for your voice to be heard, before the final vote happens on any given bill.  But last week, we watched as our legislative colleagues on the other side of the aisle fast-tracked bills that not only created significant concerns for our members, they have potential to cause great public harm.

In just one week, legislation passed the Senate that imposes impacts and interferes with women’s healthcare decisions, union paycheck interference, undermines pay equity and and eliminates city of Pittsburgh ordinances sending both an anti-immigrant and anti local control message. Given the importance and impact of each of these issues, we would normally have moved strategically through the process to consider each bill, hold hearings, accept public comment and then move the bill through committee and to the Senate floor for a vote.  But this time, that just wasn’t how things transpired. 

I was proud to stand with my colleagues in opposition to these measures and spoke out about them.

Floor Remarks
Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 166
SB 10 SB 241
Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 10 Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 241

What the Senate Republican majority failed to do was call up legislation to address the Unemployment Call Center funding issue.  We could have brought 500 people back to work that were laid off for political reasons.  In addition to the layoffs, more than 10,000 people are continue to wait for benefits and assistance, which is absolutely unconscionable. My colleagues and I are disgusted by the lack of concern for the lives affected.  We can and need to do better.

Of great concern is the lack of consideration the Republican majority is giving to our members and their ideas.  There was no real opportunity for public input and thorough examination of legislation.  They shut the process down and refused to consider concepts that could strengthen legislation being considered for a vote.  This happened multiple times during committee action last week.

In the upcoming weeks, the Senate will hold legislative budget hearings, to analyze details from the governor’s proposed 2017-18 budget.  Governor Wolf faced an incredible challenge building the 2017-18 Fiscal Year budget including our revenue shortfall, the looming structural deficit and ideological differences with the Republican majority.

Senator Jay Costa Remarks following
Gov. Tom Wolf's Budget Address
Sen. Jay Costa Budget Proposal Interview

The governor’s proposal contains many new ideas to streamline services and consolidate operations, forging a path to fiscal stability through efficiency and reinventing government.

We are thankful the governor’s proposal does not include draconian cuts to critical programs and services that would threaten the health and well-being of our most vulnerable.

Senate Democrats share the governor’s vision to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while realigning government services and continuing to invest and spark economic development initiatives statewide.

Our caucus has been a longstanding proponent of:

  • providing a quality education for all children
  • growing jobs and the economy
  • producing lasting and substantial property tax relief
  • providing for the health care needs of women
  • offering new and innovative solutions to increasing environmental concerns
  • raising the minimum wage
  • providing for the needs of low-income families and those with special needs

Many of these ideas were a focal point of the governor’s 2017-18 proposed fiscal year plan. Senate Democrats share much of the governor’s vision and are laser-focused on moving Pennsylvania forward.  But most importantly, Senate Democrats always have been and will continue to be champions for the middle class.

I will continue to keep you updated as we move through the budget process.  Please as always, do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions, concerns or need our assistance.

Stay warm and enjoy the winter weather!

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Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 166 Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 10 Senator Costa Remarks on Senate Bill 241