Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement regarding Gov. Tom Wolf’s announced priorities for the 2021-22 legislative session – which include enacting an additional tax on the energy industry and a government mandated wage increase:
“There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous challenges for Pennsylvania’s employers and workforce. While the PA Chamber appreciates Governor Wolf’s focus on helping Pennsylvania overcome the pandemic era, we do not agree that policies that will increase employer tax burdens and the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth are the best means to achieve this goal. In fact, these proposals will only serve to slow our economic recovery.
“As we approach the one year mark of the virus’s first appearance in the Commonwealth, businesses across a wide range of industries continue to struggle. The pandemic has highlighted the critical role the state’s energy supply and infrastructure has on our economy, as an emphasis on teleworking continues. Pennsylvania’s prolific natural gas reserves have helped to keep energy costs low throughout the state, and oil and gas are vital feedstocks to manufacturing sanitizer, PPE, medical equipment, and shipping the vaccine – and, most notably, one of the ingredients in the coronavirus vaccines used to deliver the molecule into the body is derived from petrochemicals. Higher energy taxes puts one of the Commonwealth’s greatest competitive advantages at risk.
“We are also concerned about other proposals highlighted by the governor that would negatively impact the state’s business climate. Linking a much needed reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax – which is one of the nation’s highest – to the implementation of mandatory unitary combined reporting is not the way to move Pennsylvania forward. This complex, overly broad tax reporting system will lead to increased costs putting Pennsylvania job creators at a greater competitive disadvantage. Rather, we encourage lawmakers to enact substantial state tax reforms that are based on the principles of competitiveness, fairness, predictability and simplicity.
“Additionally, the administration’s aggressive proposal to more than double the state’s minimum wage to $15 will increase labor costs and lead to further job loss. As many of our members can attest – especially the small business community – government wage mandates threaten the vitality of businesses and job growth, and this is especially true as they continue to struggle in the pandemic landscape. A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that a $15 minimum wage could lead to as many as 3.7 million lost jobs. Rather than continuing the push for misguided minimum wage hikes, lawmakers should pursue policies that target support to low-income earners without risking jobs.
“As we collectively aim to jumpstart our economy and rebuild the Commonwealth’s workforce, it is counterintuitive to place additional burdens and hardships on the same people we’re relying on to drive our economic recovery forward. In addition to looking at possible funding support, there needs to be a focus on policies that don’t come with a monetary cost but would provide significant relief to job creators – such as much needed targeted liability protections, which would help a multitude of industries including: small businesses, nonprofits, childcare providers, as well as the education and medical communities. While this effort was opposed by legislative Democrats and vetoed by Governor Wolf last session, we are hopeful these much needed protections will be enacted in the near future.”