By Rep. Kerry Benninghoff
Throughout Pennsylvania’s history, there have been times of great challenge and hardship that became the catalyst for positive change and prosperity.
As the General Assembly begins a new legislative session, we face one of those times. While it may seem like we have many challenges before us, what we really have are many great opportunities to make Pennsylvania better.
Emerging from a global pandemic and related shutdowns of our economy, Pennsylvania has a lot of ground to recover. Small businesses, restaurants, lives and livelihoods have all been devastated.
To make matters even more confounding, we lost so much, so quickly, from what was indisputably one of the greatest economies we have seen in generations.
Moving forward, House Republicans have our eyes set on growing our economy, getting people back to work, and helping people support their families. We intend to build a recovery that lifts all Pennsylvanians and makes this state the envy of the East.
We have so much in this beautiful Commonwealth we call home: a determined people, great research institutions, natural resources, pride in our rich history, and a true desire for the betterment of our fellow citizen. We have so much working for us as we work toward recovery.
So, where does government come in? Government’s role in the ability to create jobs is extremely limited, but critical.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is the branch of government closest to the people. We call ourselves “the people’s voice” because we hear from our constituents at grocery stores, houses of worship, and even at the gas pumps.
We can help supercharge our homegrown assets and stoke the fire of economic activity by listening to our job creators, small businesses, and those that have skin in the game in the future well-being of this Commonwealth about what they feel is needed to grow this beautiful Commonwealth.
During my time in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I have seen a lot of proposals rise and wither. I have seen many well-intentioned plans create more problems by seeking to fix problems that do not exist.
One thing I hear most often from those trying to make ends meet, help their employees support their families, and give back to their community is the need for government to get out of the way and let job creators do what they do best. So maybe the question is not where does government come in, but instead, where should government step aside?
As part of government’s response to this pandemic—and to ease the burden on businesses, medical providers, and front-line personnel—many state regulations have been suspended during the statewide emergency.
Burdensome, and often unnecessary, overregulation by the government is one of the largest impediments to economic growth.
As we move forward into the new session, Republican committee chairs will be looking at regulations in the areas of their oversight to see which suspended regulations can be done away with permanently.
In addition, we need to examine our overall tax structure to make Pennsylvania more competitive when attracting and retaining businesses and families.
It is a fact that our base Corporate Net Income Tax is one of the highest in the nation. It is the label by which companies first judge whether or not to make Pennsylvania home and bring jobs and economic development with them.
Having a tax structure that makes sense and promotes fairness will help drive investment in Pennsylvania, make our Commonwealth more appealing for those looking to bring family-sustaining jobs to our communities, and provide us with a regional competitive advantage.
Another key component to our economic comeback is giving the people their power back in times of emergency. Last session, the General Assembly passed a state Constitutional amendment that would limit the governor’s currently limitless authority during times of declared state emergencies.
The amendment, which the General Assembly already adopted this session, would require the governor to get legislative approval to continue his ability to use emergency powers beyond 21 days. Having passed in two consecutive sessions, the question will now go before the voters in the Primary Election this May.
This would require a more cooperative and holistic response during times of emergency and ensure government does not override the voices of the very people it is elected to represent. COVID-19 will not be the last emergency we face. The siloed, single-handed approach of the last several months cannot be the way Pennsylvania responds to the next emergency.
The people of Pennsylvania, not the government, are what make us strong as a Commonwealth. That is why it is such a privilege to serve in the General Assembly, the branch closest to the people, and be their voice. Through them — the people we represent — we can make Pennsylvania a better place for everyone.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, is Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and represents portions of Centre and Mifflin counties.