Sen. Eichelberger expects budget to be on time

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

Senator John Eichelberger, 30th District, was in a suit for his visit to Greencastle Tuesday. A far change from his attire on April 19.

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast at John Allison Public House, he told the audience, “I feel a lot better today than the last time I was here, finishing the Pub Run, 13.1 miles of sheer agony and pain.”

Eichelberger reviewed some of the issues he was tackling in Harrisburg as the fiscal year ended. The state budget was slated to be finished by the June 30 deadline, as has always been the case under Gov. Tom Corbett. That was not true of his predecessor, Ed Rendell, he stated. The $1.3 billion deficit would hurt schools and libraries, he predicted. The pension problem was “eating us alive”, as it was in many states across the country. Legislators were facing opposition to solutions by unions, and special interest groups who wanted to be excluded from changes in the retirement system, Eichelberger said, and he supported a change from defined benefits to defined contributions by public employees.

He sponsored a bill on paycheck protection, which would prohibit any government entity from using public resources to collect union dues and PAC money from employees. The unions would be responsible for collecting their own dues. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, he said, 40 to 70 percent of union dues were used for political activity and he wanted to send a message that unions were not in charge.“We’re very close to getting this done,” he reported.

Eichelberger also addressed House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76, which eliminated school property taxes and shifted the load to a higher sales tax to fund education. Initially the math didn’t work out to provide the same funding, but those bugs were adjusted. One problem though, was if a school district wanted to do a building project. Since it no longer had control of the taxes, an expansion would be more difficult. In response to a question, he said sales tax funding would not be as stable as that from real estate taxes, but historically the revenue went up.

Eichelberger was recently named to the Appropriations Committee. He is vice chairman of Banking and Insurance, chairman of Local Government, and also serves on the Finance, Communications and Technology, and Judiciary committees.