PA Chamber Statement on Gov. Shapiro’s PLA Directive

HARRISBURG – Today, PA Chamber Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Alex Halper released the following statement in response to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recent announcement of a new directive for the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for state projects.

PLAs typically require private companies to commit to using unionized labor as a prerequisite to be considered for contracts to work on a public construction project.

“We will carefully review the details of this directive and how it’s implemented, and we appreciate the governor stating that bidding processes will be open to both union and non-union contractors,” Halper said. “In our experience, however, PLAs have historically been used to force companies whose employees are not members of a union to either forgo bidding on a project or be forced to replace their own employees with a union. This type of mandate is unfair and it discriminates against a significant portion of private sector workers who opt to not be represented by a union.”

“The Commonwealth ought to consider bids for public projects based on merit and cost effectiveness,” Halper continued. “Project labor agreements, on the other hand, have been shown to raise projects costs with no discernible benefit to safety, or keeping projects on-time and on-budget.”

PA Chamber Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling on Prevailing Wage Act

HARRISBURG – Today, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry hailed a recent state Supreme Court ruling as a significant victory for taxpayers and employers in the ongoing debate over the application of the Commonwealth’s Prevailing Wage Act. The decision, which upheld a 2022 Commonwealth Court ruling in the case of Ursinus College v. Prevailing Wage Appeals Board, reinforces the longstanding interpretation of the law.

In response to this ruling, PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein issued the following statement:

“This ruling reaffirms our position that the Prevailing Wage Act should not be applied more broadly to private projects. The decision helps maximize private sector investment and growth while providing clarity for businesses operating in Pennsylvania.”

The PA Chamber previously coordinated a coalition of leading industry associations in submitting amicus curiae briefs to both the Commonwealth Court and Supreme Court, arguing that the Prevailing Wage Act applies exclusively to “public works” projects in which a government entity has a close relationship to a project, either as a contracting party or funder.

Other associations joining the brief included the PA Municipal Authorities Association, the PA Waste Industries Association, the PA Council of General Contractors, and LeadingAge PA, which represents providers of senior services.

In the Ursinus case, where the municipal authority in question had no active involvement beyond facilitating the project’s financing, the brief argued that applying prevailing wage requirements would constitute an unjustified expansion of the law’s scope, contrary to established legal precedent.

Bernstein also emphasized the PA Chamber’s commitment to advocating for policies that promote economic growth and fiscal responsibility:

“We will continue to champion sensible interpretations of Pennsylvania’s labor laws that balance protections for workers and maintaining a competitive business environment. With the clarity that this ruling provides, employers can continue to use this type of financing model without risking triggering the Prevailing Wage Act, which can complicate project delivery and significantly increase costs.”

UPS Opens New Harrisburg Regional Hub

PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein attended the Grand Opening of UPS’ new, state-of-the-art 24/7 East Zone Regional Hub in Harrisburg last Wednesday and presented the company with honors recognizing its substantial investment into Pennsylvania’s economy.

Strategically located within a day’s drive of nearly two-thirds of the major population centers in the United States, UPS’ Harrisburg hub is the fourth-largest hub in the company’s network.

The new 775,000 square-foot facility, now fully operational, employs 1,700 people and is equipped with advanced automation and other innovations that enable it to process more than one million packages per day.

As reported by PennLive:

“Inside the massive facility with high ceilings sits conveyors processing packages, which go through camera tunnels that will scan the packages. That in turn communicates with the system to tell that package where to go, ultimately heading to an individual trailer that will take it to its final destination.”

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger also attended and spoke during the event. “The economic impact of this project is massive,” he said. “When this project was first announced a few years ago, it was part of a statewide investment by UPS of about $1.4 billion into their operation.”

Following the event, Bernstein spoke to the board of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber, where he emphasized the important partnerships that bolster pro-business advocacy across the state.

Bernstein recognized Harrisburg Regional Chamber CEO Ryan Unger and his team for their tireless work promoting economic growth in the region and fighting for policies that will strengthen business development in central Pennsylvania.

Bernstein also outlined the PA Chamber’s key legislative priorities for the fall session: tax reform, permitting reform, and workforce development. Together, these initiatives constitute a comprehensive framework for making Pennsylvania a more competitive state for business, which he says is critical to attracting additional investment and jobs into the Commonwealth.

Chamber Chats: Fall Session Priorities

Lawmakers return to Harrisburg later this month, and the PA Chamber is excited to continue promoting bipartisan, pro-business solutions we are championing to make Pennsylvania a more competitive state for business.

For the latest edition of Chamber Chats, the PA Chamber’s Lindsay Andrews caught up with our Vice President of Government Affairs, Alex Halper, to discuss the organization’s top policy priorities as his team gears up for start of the fall session. A minimally revised transcript of their conversation is below.

(Click to view video)

 

We have had a good start to 2023 and some of the things that got done in the budget. Can you talk to us a little bit about what was achieved on behalf of business and what we would like to see coming up in the fall?

AH: Yeah, we have made some real progress on getting some of the top Chamber priorities as part of the legislative agenda – the priorities that lawmakers, that the governor are talking about.

Things like improving Pennsylvania’s tax code. We had tremendous progress last session to make Pennsylvania more competitive as it relates to business taxes, but a lot more work to do and we have a real opportunity this year, this session, and this fall to make more progress.

What can you tell us about the specifics of that progress? What would you like to see get done?

AH: Last year, for the first time in decades, Pennsylvania reduced its corporate net income tax rate. And we needed to because we had the second-highest rate in the country.

The problem is, while we did that, other states are making pro-business, pro-growth tax reform as well, and Pennsylvania is just not keeping up. Governor Shapiro, when he was running for office, talked about reducing those tax rates more quickly, and expediting those reductions.

We thought that was a great idea; we supported the governor’s call for expediting the reduction of the corporate tax rate. There is legislation in both the House and Senate to do that, and we are going to keep pushing to get that done.

What about the treatment of net operating losses? What can you tell us about that? I know that has been a long-term goal for the business community.

AH: Pennsylvania unfortunately puts itself at a great disadvantage as it relates to net operating losses. That basically means that for businesses that experience losses – they lose money in a year – they are often able to use those losses to offset profits in a future year. Of course, our goal for all businesses is to make a profit but a lot of times, you might have a startup company where they are investing in capital, into people, and they are losing a lot of money.

The tax code, both at the federal and the state level, allows companies to offset those losses and reinvest in their company. Pennsylvania, though, does not treat those losses nearly as favorably as practically every other state in the country.

We basically impose a tax on startup companies, which is the last thing we want to be doing if our goal is to make Pennsylvania the most competitive state in the country and attract new, innovative businesses.

There is legislation, again, in both the Senate and the House, that would make Pennsylvania at least on par with other states for how it treats these losses. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee earlier this session, and we are working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – with the House and Senate and the Governor’s Office – to keep that legislation advancing and hopefully get it done.

Moving on to workforce development because I know that is huge for us. A good, strong, bipartisan issue and I know that we took the lead in the first-of-its-kind Clean Slate legislation, what is next for that? What is next for workforce development in the fall?

AH: It is a challenging issue. Employers continue to struggle finding people to fill open positions. There are many, many reasons why the labor market is so tight, and that means we need to have many, many solutions to address this challenge.

You mentioned Clean Slate, which is about helping to encourage Pennsylvanians who have a criminal record or are recently incarcerated, trying to encourage them back into the workforce. That needs to continue to be a priority. We are supporting legislation that would build on Clean Slate, which provides for  automatic expungement of certain lower-level, non-violent offenses.

Similar to Clean Slate, there are efforts to reform Pennsylvania’s probation systems, and we have advocated for some employment-specific reforms to probation.

Things like that—there are no silver bullets to solving Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s workforce crisis. But these are some specific solutions that we think will help a lot of Pennsylvanians but also a lot of Pennsylvania employers.

I also know that permitting reform is critical and an important issue for employers wanting to come to the state. What can you tell us about what is being done to streamline our permitting process and attract business and jobs to Pennsylvania?

AH: It simply takes too long, it is too complicated, and there is not enough transparency in the system of applying for and receiving state permits for projects—if you are looking to expand your facility, for example.

Legislation passed the state Senate earlier this year with bipartisan support to improve those systems, create more efficiency and more transparency. Employers want to know how long it is going to take and how and when to make key investments. This is not about cutting corners as it relates to environmental regulations, this is about understanding and having uniformity with the process and transparency.

This legislation is now pending in the state House, we think it would go a long way toward improving permitting in Pennsylvania and again something we are hoping will continue to advance this fall session.

This is something that has the support of business and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as the Shapiro administration.

AH: That is true. One of the first actions that Gov. Shapiro took upon taking office was issuing an executive order to improve permitting in Pennsylvania. Part of this legislation would codify Gov. Shapiro’s executive order so that it exists in Pennsylvania law long after his tenure as governor is completed. We think there are some very good ideas in there and we look forward to continuing to work with a broad coalition to make this happen.


 

For more information on these issues, please visit the On the Hill section of our website.

PA Chamber Testifies on Workforce Challenges in Rural Communities

 

HARRISBURG – This week, PA Chamber Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday testified on the ongoing workforce challenges that employers face in the Commonwealth’s rural communities during a public hearing at Penn College hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

The hearing brought together leaders from Pennsylvania’s energy and healthcare sectors as well as educators, agency officials, and nonprofit associations. Participants included PA Chamber members UPMC, Coterra Energy, Penn College, Penn State, Shippensburg University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) – who also serves as the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s board chairman – chaired the hearing.

During his testimony, Sunday emphasized the importance of improving Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness through favorable tax and regulatory policies. “Our goal at the PA Chamber is to make Pennsylvania the most economically competitive state in the nation. This requires a tax and regulatory environment that encourages investment into the state,” Sunday said.

He also highlighted the need for modernized infrastructure to support economic growth throughout Pennsylvania. “We need modernized infrastructure across the state – from a safe and efficient system of roads and bridges to world-class airports and ports, to reliable gas, electric, and water infrastructure, and, just as important, access to high-speed broadband.”

Sunday also discussed recent legislative achievements, including the Senate’s advancement of comprehensive permitting and licensing reform legislation (SB 350) and tax reform measures (SB 345 and 346) that accelerate reduction of the state’s corporate net income tax and enhance businesses’ ability to carry forward net operating losses into future years.

The PA Chamber also supports efforts to improve the state’s workforce by addressing key barriers such as affordable childcare, occupational licensing requirements, and re-entry into the workforce after incarceration. In his testimony, Sunday reiterated the Chamber’s support for expanding Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law and efforts to improve childcare for working families.

With Pennsylvania’s population decline being another major concern in the hearing, Sunday’s written testimony cited IRS data demonstrating that residents are leaving Pennsylvania for states with better economic climates. Sunday recommended targeted regional marketing efforts and greater collaboration with local chambers of commerce and economic development groups as a solution to help attract more residents to the Commonwealth.

Sunday urged policymakers to focus on creating an environment that attracts investment and promotes population growth. “We encourage the Center to take a close look at regional economic needs and population migration trends. Reforms to the state’s tax and regulatory structure help everywhere, but it is certainly the case that each region of the state has its own key industries.”

Sunday concluded his testimony by restating the PA Chamber’s commitment to working with stakeholders including the governor’s office, state legislature, and local communities to help move Pennsylvania forward.

Sunday’s full written testimony is available here. To watch his remarks, click here.

PA Chamber Leads Coalition in Calling on Lawmakers to Enact Permitting Reform

HARRISBURG – Today, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry spearheaded a group of 68 leading business associations and local chambers of commerce in sending a letter to Governor Josh Shapiro and members of the Pennsylvania state legislature, urging them to take decisive action in reforming the state’s “dysfunctional and unpredictable permitting system.”

The coalition, which represents several of Pennsylvania’s top industries and professions, detailed in its letter how challenges surrounding the current permitting process – including excessive wait times, burdensome costs, and a general lack of transparency – disadvantage Pennsylvania when it comes to attracting new business investment.

“The Commonwealth has too often lost out on investment to other states, and our inadequate permitting system is one key factor,” the letter reads. “The current process takes too long, lacks transparency, and costs businesses money and good-paying jobs for our state’s workers.”

The letter also outlined support for recent executive actions taken by the Shapiro administration to enact durable and lasting reforms to the state’s permitting process. Moreover, the coalition called for continued cooperation between the governor and members of the General Assembly in order to unlock the benefits of these reforms, including a more modern public infrastructure system, increased manufacturing, and additional economic opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

“Reform should be built upon the tenets of predictability, transparency, efficiency, and durability,” the letter continues. “Now is the time to coalesce around meaningful reforms that will allow our state to truly compete and lead. Doing so will build upon bipartisan momentum at the federal level to streamline permitting and unlock American investment.”

The coalition also reaffirmed its readiness to work with state leaders to improve Pennsylvania’s economic trajectory and capitalize on “a generational opportunity” unlock the state’s potential.

Full text of the letter is available here.

Background:  

This letter is the latest of several steps the PA Chamber has taken to promote permitting reform.

  • Pennsylvania Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein published an op-ed explaining how permitting reform will make Pennsylvania competitive on the national and world stage, and co-authored an op-ed with Pennsylvania State Building & Construction Trades Council President Rob Bair calling on state lawmakers to enact permitting reform.
  • In March, Pennsylvania Chamber Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday testified at a House Republican Policy Committee hearing, highlighting investments Pennsylvania lost in recent years due to a dysfunctional state permitting process. The Chamber’s testimony identified a comprehensive solution to the permitting process that addresses state agency resources, permit deadlines, and reforms to the permit appeals process.
  • Also in March, the Pennsylvania Chamber joined the national “Permit America to Build” coalition and sent a letter to Congress urging federal lawmakers to enact legislation that will modernize permitting processes.

###