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.”

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.

Philly Event Highlights Bipartisan Calls for Permitting Reform

This past Friday, PA Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Alex Halper participated in a panel discussion in Philadelphia focused on permitting reform.

The organization Building a Better America hosted the panel discussion at the Sprinklerfitter’s Local 692 union hall in northeast Philadelphia.  Joining Halper on the panel were State Senator Frank Farry (R-Bucks), State Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia), UA Local 420 Business Manager Jim Snell, Buckley & Co. CEO Rob Buckley, and Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joseph Szafran.

Halper emphasized the importance of improving Pennsylvania’s systems of issuing state permits for expansion, development, and other projects and the extent to which permitting reform is a key element in the PA Chamber’s legislative agenda to strengthen the Commonwealth’s competitiveness.  He praised Gov. Shapiro for identifying permitting reform as a priority early in his new administration and urged the Administration to work with lawmakers to build on the Governor’s efforts, specifically by helping to advance reform legislation in Senate Bill 350.

Senator Farry described efforts in the Senate, which passed S.B. 350 this past spring with bipartisan support, and Rep. White highlighted some of the many reasons this issue represents a unique opportunity to support Pennsylvania workers, employers, communities, and our economy. Szafran, who took over as Executive Director of the Lower Bucks Chamber in May, articulated his experience hearing from businesses frustrated over the slow and opaque process of applying for state permits.

The PA Chamber will continue to advocate for meaningful, common-sense permitting reform both in the halls of the state capitol and throughout the Commonwealth.

Chamber officials, lawmakers press for more aggressive permitting reform

by JOHN FINNERTY, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG – State and federal chamber officials joined with lawmakers Tuesday to call for further action to reform permitting processes in the state, arguing that Pennsylvania remains at a competitive disadvantage due to the amount of time it takes businesses to get the state’s OK to begin projects.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, said that she has a constituent who moved his business to West Virginia because he’d wanted to expand the facility and he was able to get the new facility built and open in less time in West Virginia then he would get permits to get started in Pennsylvania.

Luke Bernstein, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said a similar circumstance helped prompt US Steel to decide to open 900-job facility in Arkansas instead of Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania needs to be more competitive,” Bernstein said.

They were part of a call with reporters Tuesday that also involved representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor groups.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, made permitting reform one of his first priorities after taking office earlier this year. That order dictated that agencies set deadlines in which they will provide permits or the applicants will be refunded their application fee. Earlier this month, the governor’s office announced that as part of the administration’s efforts to improve the state government’s online services, the Department of Environmental Protection is working to shift more permit applications online.

“Currently, only 3% of DEP applications and permitting licenses are submitted online,” according to an Aug. 15 press release from the governor’s office.

Bernstein said that the administration’s efforts haven’t gone far enough.

“People don’t want their money back, they want their permit,” he said, adding that the state suffers from a “dysfunctional and unpredictable permitting process.”

Bernstein said the state needs the kind of reforms spelled out in Senate Bill 350, which passed the state Senate in May, but has yet to move in the state House.

Among the reforms included in that legislation would be a provision requiring agencies to create online systems for applicants to track the status of their permit applications.

Bernstein noted that people who order pizza online can track the progress of their dinner but permit applicants don’t get the same kind of service from the state government.

Senate Bill 350 also includes provisions that would require state agencies to notify applicants within 10 days if their permit application is incomplete and to notify applicants within 20 days if there is a technical deficiency in the application.

Permitting reform critical in cementing PA’s energy leadership

Note: This editorial originally appeared in Broad + Liberty.

World energy markets remain in turmoil as Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine invited sanctions and a long-needed rethink of global energy policy. Markets around the world have strongly signaled they are willing to pay a premium for American energy, having seen how Putin has used proceeds from Russian oil and gas to help fuel his invasion.

Pennsylvania is awash with enough energy resources to meet this demand, while keeping prices lower for consumers domestically – we just need the infrastructure to deliver it and the regulatory environment to build.

Our state has huge reserves of natural gas and coal, not to mention decades of knowledge and supply chain in the nuclear, grid management, and renewables spaces. Most importantly, we have a skilled and ready workforce that is ready to get to work to deliver energy safely to homes and businesses and to move it overseas to growing economies that want to trade with free market democracies like the United States.

How will we do it? It will take expanding Pennsylvania’s ability to move gas to market, including through an export facility in the southeastern part of the state. Such a project would mean tens of thousands of man-hours for good-paying jobs in the skilled trades, while helping to grow the economy and providing cleaner, American-made energy to our allies.

A study is currently underway to examine how Pennsylvania could become a leading player in the global energy marketplace by exporting liquid natural gas (LNG). The Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force, a bipartisan coalition comprised of public officials, industry leaders, and building and trades representatives, is conducting a series of hearings to develop a report on the subject, which is expected later this year.

Building an LNG export facility would not only create jobs in the skilled trades; its establishment would also support permanent employment opportunities throughout the entire greater Philadelphia region.

Research demonstrates that every direct job in the natural gas and oil industry generates at least three and a half additional jobs in Pennsylvania. Beyond these workforce opportunities, revenues generated from natural gas exports can also help contribute to the wellbeing of the regional economy.

To make an LNG export terminal a reality, however, we need comprehensive permitting reform.

By one estimate, it takes an average of 4.5 years for energy infrastructure projects to undergo environmental reviews. This process can delay critical projects – like the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed in Appalachia – and force others to be canceled entirely. When this happens, potential benefits for local economies (like job creation and economic development) go unrealized.

Reforming our state and federal permitting processes is essential for producing and supplying all sources of energy and making progress on emissions reduction.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle in Washington and Harrisburg have recognized that addressing the challenges of fighting climate change while ensuring abundant, affordable energy will only happen when policy promotes innovation and building new projects in the United States. The non-partisan policy think tank Common Good estimates permitting delays on energy projects cost the nation trillions in public health costs, and the Property and Environment Research Center has pointed to slow federal reviews of forest management as a contributor to wildfires plaguing the Mountain West.

The Port of Philadelphia is the most efficient facility of its kind in the nation, and it is a key infrastructure asset to the state’s quality of life and economic climate. Expanding shipments of goods and energy, including through an LNG terminal in southeastern Pennsylvania will be a boon for workers, consumers, businesses, and families, here and abroad.

As bad actors continue to disrupt global energy markets, Pennsylvania can be a leading state among nations in exporting cleaner oil and gas – and in the process, strengthening national security for America and our allies.

Jon Anzur is the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.