Kane targets 'travelers'
State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane asked lawmakers last week to provide $3 million in new funding for her office's child predator unit.
The $3 million is part of an overall $12 million increase that Kane is seeking for her office in the 2013-14 state budget.
Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed flat funding for the office. With the need to pay mandated increases for employee retirement and health benefits and a salary increase under a union agreement, law enforcement operations will take a hit unless lawmakers provide more funding in the final budget, Kane told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
The attorney general said there's an urgent need to apprehend so-called "travelers" - strangers who contact children online and then actually travel to meet them in a motel or other location.
"We can make many more arrests, but we need the funding to do it," she added.
State tax appeals
An effort is under way to change the way appeals in state tax cases are resolved. The goal is to reduce the length of time needed to reach decisions and provide more opportunity to broker compromises in the roughly 25,000 cases considered annually, state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser told the House Appropriations Committee.
The effort is being led by the state's business community, but it would affect appeals made by individual taxpayers, too.
The tax appeal overhaul is part of a business tax package proposed by Corbett. Legislation is still being drafted to spell out exactly what changes would be made.
The current appeal process involves a first stop before a revenue department board, then consideration by the six-member Board of Finance and Revenue under Treasury, and then the state courts as a final stop.
The finance board includes three gubernatorial appointees and the three elected state row officers, the treasurer, attorney general and auditor general.
Having a six-member board is unwieldy and leads to situations where it can take years to resolve cases, said Peter Calcera, vice president for government relations with the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs.
One idea is to create an independent three-member commission under Treasury to handle appeals.
The goal is to resolve cases more quickly so that taxpayers have more certainty and state government recoups tax revenue that could otherwise be disputed for years, said Calcera.
(Swift is Harrisburg bureau chief for Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)