Main Line Media
Warren Kampf looks relaxed sitting down to talk in his Paoli office. It’s Tuesday, and, with the state budget passed and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett last Saturday night, that bit of pressure is off his legislative shoulders.
He’s wearing a navy blazer, but his shirt collar is open — no tie.
“The budget is fiscally responsible,” Kampf says first in response to a request for a “top three” assessment of the budget. “It’s on time. The dollars are there. It doesn’t spend more than is coming in, [and there is] no additional taxation.”
It’s Kampf’s second go-round on the state budget. He’s also got several bills pending or that have been introduced in the Pennsylvania House that are of particular interest to his and other state constituencies. Most notable, perhaps, are two that would reform the state pension system for state workers and school employees.
“It prioritizes education,” is next, although Kampf says he is not ranking in any particular order what he sees as the most commendable aspects of the budget. “Higher education is level- funded. Temple will not increase tuition. Penn State will probably, but at the rate of inflation. K-12 education is level-funded, [with] more state dollars than ever before.”
He has an election coming up in November, a re-election if he is successful. Kampf (R-157), elected over then-incumbent Paul Drucker in 2010, will go another round with Drucker in November for the House seat that takes in Tredyffrin and Schuylkill townships, Phoenixville in Chester County and parts of West Norriton and Lower Providence townships in Montgomery County.
Corbett signed the $27.65 million budget into law late last Saturday, after the Pennsylvania Senate had passed it. The House had voted in favor that Thursday.
The budget had “hundreds of millions in education funding” restored according to news sources on top of the budget process and the signing event. “The original proposal was to “cut higher education by 30 percent. The final budget doesn’t reduce it at all,” Kampf says.
“Tredyffrin-Easttown and Phoenixville [school districts] are receiving at or slightly above the amount they got from the state last year,” Kampf says.
Money cut from K-12 was also returned to the budget. Also, $84 million for human services, specifically for those people with intellectual disabilities, was put back in. “The governor had originally proposed a block grant that all counties would have gotten for human services, a lump sum,” Kampf says. “What occurred was not a state-wide block grant.”
At the beginning of the process, in February, Governor Corbett had proposed a $27.1 billion budget. By the time it was signed it had increased to $27.65 billion.
And at the end of the process, “A budget with increased spending of 1.7 percent is responsible to our jobs sector,” Kampf says, identifying his third budget highlight. He has earlier talked about the state’s fiscal, tax, welfare and school codes, “set[s] of rules for topics in the law,” and notes that they can be changed, specifically, in this case, “a change regarding how taxes on our business sector are calculated, [moving to a] single-sales factor formula.”
Businesses in Pennsylvania, he says, have previously been taxed twice. “Also, he says, “Pennsylvania has the highest net-profits tax on “C” corporations, [those that are incorporated,] 9.99 percent.” Also, “phasing down” the state’s capital stock and foreign franchise taxes, both of which are based on a corporation’s capital stock value, will also have an impact on jobs,” he says.
Addressing criticism of the well-publicized plan to get Shell Oil Co. to build a $3.2 billion ethylene processing plant in Western Pennsylvania, Kampf calls the criticism a “misunderstanding.”
“The tax credit for ethane begins in 2017 for any entity using by-products of natural gas…. There is no tax credit until 2017, until after the Shell plant is built,” he says.
Kampf says the plant will produce 20,000 jobs in Western Pennsylvania, and that it does not involve spending “today’s dollars.” He notes the competition with Ohio and West Virginia for the gas by-products manufacturing plum and also acknowledges that “people in this region do care about jobs and industry, and also the environment.”
Between the House passage and the Senate’s deliberations, Kampf says, there was debate and there were votes on other component parts [of the budget]. Also, there were “other pieces of legislation with expectations that they [would] be passed and signed.”
“The original bill was a Senate bill [with] $500 million more than the governor’s [request],” Kampf says. “When the Senate bill came over, it didn’t have the $100 million in block grants for public schools, [which the House] put back in.”
Kampf paints a picture of the Pennsylvania Senate and House, each with its own ideas and priorities, debating, exchanging, compromising in order to get a viable budget passed and the governor’s signature on time. Out of the House came the pilot program involving 20 counties “to tackle the waiting list of special needs children who will need services” to continue in their adulthoods, he cites as an example a program the House had put into the budget, “$30-40 million for people… who have serious special needs.”
Another example of the down-to-the-wire scramble, the moratorium on gas drilling in Southeastern Pennsylvania, specifically Bucks and Montgomery counties in the heart of the recently identified South Newark basin, was put into place late and surprised some legislators. They said so. Kampf says that such a possibility “needed further review,” and so he supported the moratorium and “also voted to ban drilling on state [university] campuses,” which is otherwise allowed as it is state-owned land.
“The budget process works,” Kampf says. “The budget is ultimately put together, the spending and revenue sides reflecting three priorities — fiscal responsibility, education and the job sector. The component parts received votes on both sides of the aisle.”
“My job is to have a good sense of what my constituents want and reflect that in the budget,” Kampf says. He lists “meeting constituents at their doors, telephone town halls, physical town hall meetings. How I translate that [results in] talk[ing] to our leaders in caucus.” What happens in the end “is a collective result. The things that I pushed for are present in the final budget.”
When the Pennsylvania House reconvenes, it may consider two bills that Kampf has put forward. House bills 2453 and 2454 would change the current state and public school employees’ pension plans from defined benefit to a defined contribution model. In the case of public-school teachers, as an example, Kampf’s bill would have employers contribute four percent to an employee-selected investment plan that would work like a 401K or 403B plan with the employee contributing at least 4 percent of her salary, but more if desired. Existing employees would have the option to join with an employer contributing seven percent if the defined contribution plan were to be chosen.
Kampf finds a graph that depicts the unfunded liability rate of PSERS contributions by school district staying above 25 percent of school district budgets from 2017 until 2035 with the current plan in place.
Current benefits to already retired teachers being paid through the existing defined benefits plan could still be managed. Kampf says he believes “it would be no more expensive [than now], maybe less expensive.”
Kampf has also introduced a bill that would reallocate a portion of the gaming revenue from the Valley Forge Casino, presently dedicated to Upper Merion Township, to give Tredyffrin Township a share of the money. Other pieces of his legislation concerns research and development tax credits and the elimination of road- and bridge-naming bills from the legislature’s purview, transferring those particular honors to PennDOT.
Kampf’s prevailing-wage legislation, HB 709, which would do away with “prevailing wage” labor costs involved with school construction, he said, is “out of the labor and industry committee, [but is] not receiving consideration on the House floor yet.”
On his vacation agenda, Kampf will be chairing a House majority policy committee public hearing to assess opportunities for job creation and economic growth in high-tech industries in Pennsylvania this coming week on Wednesday, July 11, 10 a.m. at the Tredyffrin Township Building, 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn.
But, to summarize, “In the end, the [state] budget meets our priorities within our funding levels,” Kampf says. “It’s what we had to do under the circumstances.”
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