During his annual meeting with the Bensalem Business Association, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo spoke mainly about the recently-passed state budget.
“I thought it was fair and balanced,” DiGirolamo said of the $31.5 billion budget.
He highlighted the $665 million increase for pre-K through grade 12 education, 12.8-percent increase for Veterans Homes and an increase for state police, which will amount to a total of 180 cadets.
“It’s a much, much better compromise than last year,” he said of nine-month impasse and partisan gridlock. “We really made a lot of people suffer.”
DiGirolamo also touched on more local issues, like the impending sale of the National Shrine of Saint Katharine Drexel. The 44-acre property and landmark in Bensalem has been “extremely underutilized” for years, according to officials from Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the order that owns the land. The original announcement came in May.
“For a lot of us in the community, it was just heartbreaking,” DiGirolamo said.
DiGirolamo, who grew up going to school at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School across the street from the shrine, served as an altar boy during Masses on the property. The crypt of Saint Katharine Drexel is also there, and is a popular Catholic worship site.
DiGirolamo said that he, Bensalem Mayor Joe DiGirolamo and state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson are committed to preserving the land there. Bensalem council members will have to approve any new uses potential buyers propose. A major priority is preserving the structures there.
“The mayor and council will have something to say,” DiGirolamo added.
DiGirolamo also distributed some “We Support Bensalem Police” lawn signs. He purchased 200 to distribute out of his district office. The township also distributed 1,500 to community members.
DiGirolamo ended by speaking about the opioid epidemic throughout the county. He praised Gov. Tom Wolf’s designation of 20 Centers of Excellence for opioid addiction across the state. The new budget includes $15 million to designate these centers as places that offer more comprehensive drug treatment.
The Penn Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Sellersville, was the only Bucks facility with this designation.
“I commend the governor,” DiGirolamo said. “He has really made this opioid problem a priority of his.”