York County's delegation of lawmakers brought home some successes in the state House and Senate in 2013, including locally authored and supported bills that advanced or became law.
For 2014, York legislators said they're hoping to pass a taxpayer-friendly state budget -- on time -- and make progress on reforms of property taxes, the state pension and welfare. Some also named privatization of the state liquor stores as a priority, after efforts in 2013 proved unsuccessful.
The budget: State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said the state budget is "probably going to be the toughest thing that we deal with" in 2014.
Miller said he would like to see an increase in the amount of state money that goes to school districts, but Pennsylvania is facing a deficit just to maintain the current funding levels for programs because new revenue isn't being generated to offset growing costs.
"Hopefully the economy continues to improve and we get more people back working and see an increase in (tax revenue generated) that way," he said.
Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal is expected in early February, and it should give lawmakers a starting point for debate. One thing Saylor said he already knows: The state needs more revenue.
State officials have projected a deficit of $1.4 billion for the 2014-15 budget year.
Pension reform: Saylor said pension reform is likely to take center stage early in the year, with lawmakers focusing on ways to divert the financial crisis surrounding the cost of pensions paid to state employees, including teachers, politicians, judges and others.
The new system needs to be less burdensome to taxpayers, and all current proposals call for a shift from pensions to a 401(k) for future state employees, he said.
Miller said he hasn't seen a single plan that he thinks addresses all pension issues, and the answer might lie in a hybrid bill created out of the handful of plans legislators are currently mulling.
All of the current proposals are "good starting points for discussion," but actuaries have been giving legislators conflicting messages, he said.
"It's hard to make a good decision when the experts disagree," Miller said.
Property taxes: Property tax reform has been on the agenda for York County legislators for decades, but 2013 marked the first time a major reform effort gained enough traction to pass a chamber.
Earlier this year, a bill authored by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, passed the House of Representatives. But the bill, which would allow school districts to shift away from property taxes by raising income taxes, hasn't been taken up by the Senate.
Saylor said one of his priorities is to develop compromises with the Senate in the coming year to get Grove's bill passed.
Grove listed the passage of the bill as his first priority for 2014, though there are still wide-ranging opinions on how to accomplish property tax reform -- even among York's delegation.
Rep. Michael Regan, R-Dillsburg, voted for Grove's bill, but he said he's hopeful there will be a push for the statewide elimination of property taxes called for under another bill he also supported.
Miller, citing the various camps in which legislators sit on property tax reform, expressed some skepticism about both chambers agreeing on a single bill. Property taxes are perennially "at the top of the list" of legislative priorities, but lawmakers always seem to fail to find solutions that work for everyone, he said.
For that reason, he said, it's important for legislators to continue pushing for a more equitable state education funding formula to replace the unfair funding system that exacerbates the property tax burden in growing counties such as York.
Grove also listed those formula changes as one of his priorities for the coming year.
The other side: The House delegation's lone Democrat from York, Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said property tax and pension reform are important issues, but being a freshman legislator in the minority party puts him somewhat at the whims of the Republicans.
He's opposed to privatizing the state's liquor stores, and he's hoping legislators don't look to that option to generate the one-time revenue needed to compensate for the deficit. Doing so would "mortgage our future," he said.
Schreiber said he'll focus on trying to further initiatives that seem to have the bipartisan support necessary to become law, including bills he's supporting as a member of the Women's Health Caucus.
He'll also push for House Bill 300, a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
Schreiber is a co-sponsor of the bill, which he said has been buoyed by Corbett's recent endorsement.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.