In the 2017/18 PA budget year, like many years prior, Pennsylvania found itself in the midst of tense budget negotiations that carried well beyond the commencement of the fiscal year. Democrats and Republicans debated over how to address the deficit. Governor Tom Wolf tried to entice and engage both sides using carrots and sticks, mostly to no avail. Before the budget was ultimately resolved, the need to focus attention could have left other important issues tabled for our clients had Pugliese Associates not worked diligently to keep those interests top of mind.
In contentious budget years, it is imperative to keep eyes closely on the ball to ensure other important interests are not forgotten or lost in the shuffle.
When budget negotiations are the primary focus, other important legislation may move quickly and without much notice or not at all. Decisions that can negatively impact businesses and/or state organizations may very well be missed and not get the attention that they would under normal circumstances. Uninformed and under-represented companies may suddenly find themselves facing a potentially disastrous new regulation or mandate.
How can you keep your company on solid ground through the sometimes tumultuous and ever-evolving political landscape? A Pennsylvania lobbying firm that understands the impacts of a budget impasse and has institutional knowledge of past negotiations can make certain your business’s position in the marketplace remains solid and poised for growth.
During many challenging budget seasons, Pugliese Associates’ experienced lobbyists have helped clients achieve outstanding results and reach goals despite the distractions of struggling budget talks. Whether finding new opportunities for client funding at the state level, blocking unreasonable legislation or lobbying for needed legislation, Pugliese Associates maintains integrity and focus for our clients.
How does a strong PA lobbying firm do this? Here are a few examples of our work that have kept our clients’ desires front and center for lawmakers during the budget negotiations.
Achievement: Boosting Solar Advancements in Pennsylvania
Pugliese Associates has a history of lobbying successfully for reforms related to solar power which has become a focus of legislation both nationwide and in Pennsylvania. Solar City, now owned and operated as Tesla (but still known to many as Solar City) has always been an Elon Musk company. With the assistance of Pugliese Associates, Tesla significantly increased its presence in the Commonwealth in recent years. Now with the Tesla/Solar City merger the company’s increased, innovative presence in PA has resulted in more opportunities to address this alternative energy supply.
Pugliese Associates has helped to attain major advances in the area of solar energy expansion and facilitated additional benefits to Pennsylvanians using more clean energy sources. Before our representation of Solar City and now Tesla/Solar City, solar credits had seen a huge decrease in value. After strategic efforts, we now can note that the market is finally beginning to move in the value of these credits which we can anticipate continuing to increase over time, especially with the recent enactment of ACT 40 (HB 118) which became law on Oct. 30, 2017. It enables the expansion of solar energy usage across the Commonwealth.
This will help the Commonwealth stay on track with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, which was passed in 2004. It requires Pennsylvania to up the percentage of electricity coming from renewable and clean energy sources each year. By 2021, solar should account for at least half a percent of electricity used in Pennsylvania, not including out-of-state generators. Solar projects with Pennsylvania sites must receive solar-generated credits, which go to an electricity distributor operating in the commonwealth.
Closing the borders on this regulation ensures Pennsylvania ratepayers support:
- Tax revenue
Achievement: Restoring the Loan Component in the Solar Energy Program
Another solar-related success Pugliese Associates has achieved is restoring the loan component to the Solar Energy Program within the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). A bit of background — the CFA was established as an independent agency of the Department of Community and Economic Development in 2004. The CFA administers economic stimulus funding of programs and investments to assist with Pennsylvania’s growth.
CFA has decided to open a new grant program, in addition to an existing loan program, and is now accepting applications for more than $30 million in funding to support the advancement of solar power in Pennsylvania. The key to the success of solar power in the long term will be to make more people aware of its capabilities and interest them in trying it for themselves.
Over the past few years, the Solar Energy Program (SEP) had only offered loans to promote solar usage in the state. The CFA decided the program should be expanded to include grants, which will not need to be paid back by recipients, thus opening up the SEP to more applicants. Those who receive them will be tasked with promoting:
- The generation and use of solar energy
- The manufacturing and/or assembly of solar equipment
Who Is Eligible for These Grants and Loans?
Those who want to fund solar projects may apply, such as businesses, political subdivisions and economic development organizations. The projects might include:
- Making facilities to generate, distribute or store solar energy
- Adding manufacturing or assembly facilities for solar panels or other equipment
- Developing facilities used for solar research and development technology
- Constructing places to house any of the above operations
All this will help expand the availability of solar energy across the state. What’s more, everyday citizens will come to understand the great promise of this clean resource, which Tesla and SolarCity want people to understand as their product lines grow. Without an influential Pennsylvania lobbying firm such as Pugliese Associates furthering these initiatives, they could have gotten lost within the budget impasse. Instead, Pugliese Associates made notable progress in line with our clients’ goals while keeping the best interests of the Commonwealth in mind. An increase in solar credits will boost the sales of solar systems to residential, commercial and municipal customers, while the grants will benefit the municipal sector to reduce their energy costs and hopefully keep taxes down.
Achievement: Increase in Funding for Academic Medical Centers
On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh, we secured additional funding in the academic medical line item in the Department of Human Services that the federal government will match, resulting in double the amount going to the University. This funding will positively impact the lives of individuals and families across western Pennsylvania by providing much needed additional health and dental services across the region. The monies will also assist national healthcare leaders such as the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) in their critical healthcare mission to provide psychiatric and addiction services for children, adolescents, adults and seniors at every stage of their recovery. The additional funding will also support the direct training of Pennsylvania’s next generation of clinicians, researchers and doctors.
Achievement: Clarifying Confusing Taxicab and Car Rental Fees
Pugliese Associates facilitated changes in laws governing taxicab assessment fees and the state car rental tax on behalf of two separate clients.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority faced budgetary issues sparked by confusing statutory language outlining assessment fees for Philly taxicabs, leading Medallion owners to challenge those assessments and withhold their payments. Pugliese Associates worked with legislative leadership in the Senate on PPA’s behalf to add clarifying language to the Fiscal Code that better defines the exact assessment amount.
For Car2go, Pugliese Associates successfully collaborated with key Senate leadership to amend the PA Tax Code in order to make a change to the state car rental tax. This change will help facilitate the introduction of car sharing in Pennsylvania, opening up more mobility options.
Achievement: Assisting Those with Special Needs
Pugliese Associates has long time clients whose work benefits and assists groups with special needs. Pugliese Associates offers insights and legislative assistance that empowers these organizations to maximize and expand their missions.
Here are two recent outcomes we were especially pleased to facilitate in the 2017/18 budget year:
- For Keystone Human Services, advocated successfully for additional funding to keep an adult autism program running in Lehigh Valley.
- For Barber National Institute, secured additional appropriations for the only Approved Private School for severely handicapped children north of Interstate I-80.
Pugliese Associates’ success in obtaining funding for our Adult/Adolescent Vocational Autism Initiative of Lehigh (AVAIL) has been essential. Additionally,
the firm’s work was an important component of a team effort by the intellectual disabilities providers’ community in their success in obtaining its first funding increase in 10 years. In the midst of a severe budget deficit, Pugliese Associates’ efforts were invaluable.
–Charlie Hooker, President and CEO of Keystone Human Services
Achievement: Improving the Adoption of Construction Standards
The International Code Council/National Association of Electrical Manufacturers knew there were shortcomings with the way construction standards were adopted under the Pennsylvania Building Code Law. We successfully lobbied for major changes to improve this process.
Achievement: Blocking an Increase in the Pennsylvania Hotel Tax to Patch Budget Issues
Pugliese Associates successfully blocked legislation which would have increased the state’s Hotel Tax as a source for plugging the state’s deficit which would have unfairly burdened our client, Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, and their members. Had the increase gone through PA may have deterred tourism rather than encouraging and enticing more visitors to the state who ultimately bring more dollars into our Pennsylvania economy.
Hire a Lobbyist for Your Pennsylvania Business
In recent years, Harrisburg has certainly experienced its fair share of budget dustups as Democrats and Republicans work from different angles to try and resolve fiscal challenges which reverberate throughout the Commonwealth. Enlisting the services of government affairs consulting firms such as Pugliese Associates can protect your company’s interests during these times. Many clients have benefitted from our knowledge and experience during this latest budget debate.
With this upcoming budget year not far ahead, consider getting in touch with our strategic PA Lobbying firm for more information on how we can help your business. Contact Pugliese Associates today.