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Why do some ads say “paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars?”

In 2015, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a bill requiring new language be added to advertisements coming from most state government agencies.

Senate Bill 442 was introduced by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in December 2015. The law requiring any advertisement that is paid entirely or even in part with revenue collected through taxes to clearly denote that.

All print ads that meet the requirement must visibly display the words “paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars” and broadcast advertisements must clearly have that statement read during the ad.

Folmer first introduced the legislation in 2013 as part of his “Promise to Pennsylvania,” a three-point platform he came up with focused on legislative and political, taxation and spending, and legal and labor reforms.

“This legislation will help educate taxpayers on how their tax moneys are being spent,” Folmer wrote in a co-sponsorship letter for Senate Bill 442. “It could also help reduce overhead costs for state programs as managers would be asking themselves if advertising with tax dollars is warranted.”

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and cleared the Pennsylvania House of Representatives largely along partisan lines with a Republican majority.

The bill creates two exceptions. The first is if the advertisement is broadcast or published free of charge, and the second exempts advertisements for the Pennsylvania lottery from the disclosure requirements.

How much is spent on advertising is limited by how much the department in charge of the program being marketed is appropriated in the annual state budget.

For example, under the current state budget, the Department of Community and Economic Development was appropriated about $17.8 million for the purpose of “marketing to attract tourists” to Pennsylvania and about $2 million for “marketing to attract business” to Pennsylvania.

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Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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