Coming off of a very difficult 2020, the PA Chamber kicked off 2021 with a determination to lead Pennsylvania’s post-pandemic economic recovery. It’s a recovery that will require both outside-the-box thinking and a commitment to work together.
That’s why we were disappointed that Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget proposal – which he unveiled earlier this month – was largely a reiteration of policies that aren’t only unpopular with lawmakers, but would place more tax burdens on businesses and individuals at a time when they can least afford it.
For starters, there’s the governor’s continued call to impose another tax on natural gas companies. Since the start of the Wolf administration, the PA Chamber has been leading a broad coalition in opposition to a severance tax because it unfairly targets an industry that is providing good-paying jobs, clean and affordable power and energy independence to our state and nation. In this tumultuous time, there’s yet another reason to support the natural gas industry – it’s critical to efforts to fight COVID-19. Indeed, natural gas is the feedstock for the supplies that are helping the medical community defeat this virus – including personal protective equipment and hospital equipment, such as the respirators that are saving thousands of lives a day.
The Wolf administration also wants to raise money for more state spending through a nearly 50 percent increase in the Personal Income Tax – which is paid for by individuals and a majority of businesses in the Commonwealth. Hiking the PIT – which at 3.07 percent is relatively low and one of the only bright spots in PA’s Tax Code – will only raise the cost of doing business here and make Pennsylvania less competitive overall. There’s also the governor’s efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and implement combined reporting in exchange for a slight reduction in the state’s 9.99 percent Corporate Net Income Tax rate – all efforts that have been lofted and failed to pass before because they simply don’t make financial sense for the Commonwealth.
The PA Chamber is offering a commonsense alternative that will create a stronger economy for everyone. Our “Bringing PA Back” policy agenda is rooted in what our members tell us they need in order to invest and create jobs – including a fair and balanced civil justice system; a tax structure that is easy to comprehend and encourages investment; and regulatory reforms that cut down on the length of time it takes to get critical projects completed. As we promote these goals we’re also working with our partners in the business community, local chambers and the legislature to bolster our infrastructure and workforce development offerings and create the Equality of Opportunity that is at the heart of our initiative.
As budget hearings kick off and discussions about the state’s spending for FY 2021-22 begin to take shape, our organization remains optimistic that lawmakers can reach a budget agreement by the end of June that doesn’t impose any further hardships on struggling employers and allows them to harness opportunities for growth as they overcome the great challenges posed by this pandemic. As stated by PA Chamber President Gene Barr in a recent op-ed that was focused on our vision for the state’s economic recovery, “We are excited about the possibilities and urge lawmakers statewide to realize that we are not adversaries, but people who share a vision of seeing this state overcome the pandemic and move into a brighter future for everyone. By openly communicating and working together, Pennsylvania can — and will — rise to the challenge before us.”