On behalf of a broad-based membership that is nearly 10,000 strong, the PA Chamber has crafted a 2019 legislative agenda that aims to generate cost savings for employers; encourages their growth and hiring potential; and offers them the fairness and predictability they deserve when doing business in Pennsylvania. We have been proud to carry out the mission of building a stronger economic foundation for more than 100 years by working with our members, local chamber partners and pro-business lawmakers across the state on public policies that will boost the Commonwealth’s competitiveness and improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.
With a 9.99 percent Corporate Net Income Tax Rate (among the highest effective rates in the nation), Pennsylvania’s tax structure leaves a lot to be desired. The need to lower this rate, among other tax changes that will bring the state’s business climate more in line with those of other states, was explored in fall 2018 through a new report, “Pennsylvania: A 21st Century Tax Code for the Commonwealth.”
Authored by the Tax Foundation and funded via a grant by the PA Chamber, the report found that PA relies more heavily on corporate taxes as a revenue source than most other states – 4th in terms of corporate income tax collections; and 7th worst in terms of our corporate income tax structure. A major PA Chamber priority in 2019 will be lowering this rate – without any anti-business “strings attached” (such as combined reporting); eliminating the cap on Net Operating Losses; and more.
The state’s Independent Fiscal Office recently projected an up to $1.7 billion deficit in the 2019-20 fiscal year. While other fiscal experts are more optimistic about the state’s economic outlook headed into budget negotiations, pro-growth lawmakers are insisting that the coming year’s spending plan be crafted responsibly and with consideration to Pennsylvania’s major cost-drivers. Among the highest fiscal obligations is the state’s public pension payments in both the State Employees Retirement System and the Public School Employees Retirement System – as you can see through the chart below, pensions as a share of school district expenses grew a whopping 418.6 percent from the 2010-11 school year to 2016-17.
In 2019, the PA Chamber is advocating for further reforms to the pension systems that will address an enormous unfunded liability, while joining in the call for a budget that doesn’t place new undue tax burdens on the state’s business community or individual taxpayers.
“One-size-fits-all” policies that govern labor relations and employment rules in Pennsylvania often fail to consider adverse impacts on employers. The PA Chamber supports public policy that helps facilitate a fair work environment without triggering unintended consequences that hurt employers.
In terms of our workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation systems, the PA Chamber supports policies that root out fraud and abuse and ensures the solvency of these systems, so that they can remain temporary safety nets for injured workers and those who lose their job through no fault of their own and are actively searching for work.
We oppose excessive mandates and artificial wage inflators – like “feel good” minimum wage mandates that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business and lead to reduced hours, less hiring opportunities and, in some cases, force businesses to close their doors. The PA Chamber also supports legislation that levels the playing field between unions and private sector employers, allowing business owners ample time to communicate the pros and cons of unionism to their workers; as well as ending the practice of compulsory union membership as a condition of employment.
Among Pennsylvania’s greatest assets are our vast natural resources. Since the shale gas industry arrived in the Commonwealth about a decade ago, companies have generated more than $1.5 billion for state coffers, provided hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, created an economic renaissance in many towns that were previously struggling and set Pennsylvania up to be a mass exporter of natural gas for generations to come. Despite this myriad of benefits, the natural gas industry remains among the top targets for taxation, year after year. Excessive regulation and delayed infrastructure development are also preventing our energy markets from reaching their full potential.
On this issue, the PA Chamber is engaged across multiple fronts – from leading a broad coalition against additional proposed taxes on the natural gas industry; to weighing in at the federal level in support of streamlined and simplified regulatory policies; to promoting legislation at the state level that helps Pennsylvania achieve both economic development AND environmental protection.
When one of the major cities in your state has been dubbed a “Judicial Hellhole,” it underlies the necessity for reform. The American Tort Reform Association’s most recent “Judicial Hellhole” report listed Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas as the 6th worst in the nation for the number of mass tort cases flooding the system; an overall lack of legal reform that’s allowed trial lawyers to take advantage of loopholes; a pro-plaintiff slant in the Court; and so much more.
The PA Chamber is a champion for lawsuit abuse reform, having been the driving force behind 2011’s Joint and Several Liability Law that has helped prevent plaintiffs’ lawyers from going after “deep pocket defendants” in civil cases regardless of their degree of fault.
Chief among our 2019 legal reform priorities is venue reform, which aims to prevent plaintiffs’ attorneys from filing cases in jurisdictions where there is no tie to the plaintiff or defendant. According to the “Judicial Hellholes” report, Philadelphia is well known to be a “hotbed for asbestos litigation,” ranking fourth nationwide in 2017 with 263 new filings. The PA Chamber is also focused on reforming the state’s current system of assessing responsibility for damages in asbestos-related suits. Our organization is proud to be engaged with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform in helping to bring employers the predictability and certainty in the state’s legal climate that they want and deserve.
Back in 2016, the PA Chamber heard from our members - both anecdotally and through a workforce survey - that they were having difficulty finding job candidates with the necessary skills and training to fill open positions. This information came at the same time that the PA Chamber was celebrating its 100th anniversary, which is why workforce development became a central part of our mission as we headed into a second century of operation.
The jobs skills gap still exists, as evidenced through our 28th Annual Economic Survey that was conducted last year. For the first time ever employers’ concerns about not having the candidates with the skills to do the job ranked as the number one issue that keeps them up at night.
Realizing that while there are a lot of people without jobs, there are also a lot of jobs without people, the PA Chamber’s “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative is tackling this problem on multiple fronts. First, through a comprehensive website – StartTheConversationHere.com – we’re educating the business community, students and their families, and school officials about the jobs that are available in the trades and the education and training that is necessary to obtain them. Secondly, we just wrapped up a second year of teaming with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to raise and distribute dollars for Work Ethic Scholarships, which have the triple benefit of preparing students for a great career; providing employers with the workers they need; and building the skilled workforce that Pennsylvania needs to compete in the global economy.
In addition, our organization supports legislation that broadens the scope of individuals who are able to pursue good paying jobs. Last session, we backed and Gov. Tom Wolf signed bipartisan “Clean Slate” legislation that provides a mechanism for low-level, non-violent offenders to have their previous records sealed from public view, thereby giving them a better chance at securing employment.
We encourage you to visit our workforce website to read up on our mission and our successes thus far; and learn how you can help be a part of the skills-gap solution with a tax-deductible donation toward the 2019 Work Ethic Scholarship.