Welcome Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan, to help us fulfill our mission.

Founded in 2014 by owner Susan Adams in Paxinos, Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan just opened a second retail store in Bloomsburg in November 2017. Located at 158 E. 9th St., Bloomsburg, Pretty Petals & Gifts offers a variety of floral arrangements and designs and gifts along with service that is friendly and prompt. It offers floral arrangements for all occasions including anniversary, get well, love & romance, new baby, sympathy, birthday, wedding, seasonal, just because and much more. It also carries an assortment of hand-crafted items, including some made by local artisans. The Bloomsburg store is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 570-317-2753, visit its website or email

Pretty Petals by Susan will also be donating the floral arrangements for this week’s Holiday Open House, sponsored by Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital

PA Chamber Successfully Fights Back Against More than $1 Billion in Proposed Tax Increases as 2017-18 Budget Finalized; Continues to Oppose Additional Taxes on the Natural Gas Industry

From Gene Barr, President, PA Chamber of Business & Industry

As we approach the end of the year, the 2017-18 budget has finally been completed. In late October, the governor signed into law a revenue package to balance the $32 billion spending plan that had gone into effect in July. After months of a protracted back and forth, lawmakers came to an agreement on a revenue deal that relies largely on borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund; one-time fund transfers; expanded gaming; a fireworks tax and requiring online vendors to remit sales tax. Noticeably absent from the deal was a slew of proposed tax increases that could have significantly impacted the Commonwealth’s business climate.

Throughout this year’s budget process, the PA Chamber has been strongly advocating against punitive taxes that single out specific industries and hurt the Commonwealth’s overall competitiveness. This year, thanks to the help of our local chamber partners, the PA Chamber successfully fought back against more than $1 billion in proposed taxes that would have negatively impacted the Commonwealth’s business community and hard working families. Given the financial difficulties the state has found itself in over the past few years, the proposed taxes elected officials were considering were constantly evolving. Over the course of the elongated nine month budget negotiation process, the PA Chamber pushed back against numerous proposals – including: instituting combined reporting; a commercial storage tax; a hotel tax; a technology tax; and an increase to the insurance premiums tax. We also stood up against multiple attempts to enact higher energy taxes on Pennsylvania residents and businesses – including a proposed new tax on natural gas users; and increased taxes on energy and phone bills. And, we again spoke out against and eventually defeated efforts to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour – a short-sighted move that especially hurts small businesses and makes it harder for low-wage workers to get their foot in the door.

Yet, despite the fact that a revenue package has been signed into law, there continue to be calls by some lawmakers to place an additional punitive tax on the Commonwealth’s natural gas industry. We have repeatedly warned lawmakers against this misguided policy because it will negatively impact the state’s overall business climate – further slowing Pennsylvania’s already stagnant economy.

There is a slew of misinformation regarding how Pennsylvania taxes the industry and if the industry is paying its “fair share.” Tax proponents often use the argument that Pennsylvania is the only state without a severance tax. However, Pennsylvania is also the only state to impose an impact tax on the industry. Since it was enacted, the impact tax has brought in more than $1 billion with revenues distributed to every single county in the Commonwealth to help fund critical local projects. Also, it’s important to note that the Commonwealth’s overall tax climate is more burdensome that other states with shale drilling. In fact, Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax has the highest effective rate in the country. To say that the Commonwealth is letting drillers off the hook because we haven’t placed yet another punitive tax on this industry is comparing apples to oranges – especially since some drilling states don’t even impose a Corporate Net Income Tax.

Another fallacy is that the industry has to stay in Pennsylvania because the gas is here. But capital is fluid and companies will move capital if they are not able to be profitable in a certain location. For those that believe this will happen, all you have to do is look at the drilling counts – which have already seen a decline. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s burdensome regulatory and permitting climate place additional hardships on natural gas related companies that want to come and invest in the Commonwealth. The last thing we should be doing is singling this industry out by adding another punitive tax that will serve to make the Commonwealth even less competitive than other states in the Shale play.

As we repeatedly told lawmakers throughout the budget process, we cannot expect our economy to prosper if we continue to look to short-term solutions and target specific industries to solve our budgetary problems. Instead, we need to embrace tax policies that focus on our long-term economic future and entice new investment. By creating a competitive business climate, more job creators will be enticed to stay and locate in the Commonwealth – which will then generate more revenue for the state.

A Win-Win: Add Value to Your Employee Benefits With Life and Disability

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Accident and tragedy are two things no employer wants to see for employees.

“Disability products and life insurance give employees peace of mind, knowing they have financial support in the event of unforeseen circumstances,” says Chuck Whitford, consultant at JRG Advisors. “They also give employers peace of mind in knowing that they help protect their employees. Ancillary benefits can even help businesses recruit and retain the best employees.”

Smart Business spoke with Whitford about how life insurance and disability coverage benefits employers and their employees.

Why should employers consider getting a disability plan?
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers an illness, injury or accident that will keep them out of work for more than one month. For individuals out of work for three months or more, the average time off of work due to a disability averages 2.6 years. That’s 136 weeks without a paycheck.

The cost of implementing a long-term disability plan is relatively small. For most business owners, the problem escalates as the owner tries to satisfy the current work demand and take care of the disabled employee. Providing long-term disability coverage is also valuable to employees — buying coverage on their own can cost as much as an entire group account because of stringent underwriting. Plus, the program can be structured so that the premiums are deducted as a business expense, but benefits can be received on an income tax-free basis.

What’s the difference between short-term and long-term disability?
Short-term disability fills the gap between day one of disability and when the long-term benefits kick in. Typically, a short-term disability contract covers the first 13 or 26 weeks of disability. Unfortunately, many people live paycheck to paycheck. Short-term disability can benefit those lacking sufficient savings.

Long-term disability is usually fully insured, with the exception of extremely large employers that self-fund the benefit. For most employers, the cost is determined by employee demographics and industry classification. Claims experience isn’t a significant factor. Long-term disability pays a portion of the disabled employee’s income after he or she runs out of both sick leave and short-term disability benefits, typically after 90 to 180 days. Depending on the plan design and how the policy defines disability, it may pay a monthly benefit for a specific number of years, such as two years or until normal retirement age under Social Security.

However, an employer shouldn’t administer its short-term disability program. Most employers aren’t equipped to assess when an employee is unable to perform his or her own job or when he or she is able to return, and employers are estimated to pay out 30 percent more in benefits than if the plan was managed by a claims professional. It is possible to outsource the claim adjudication process to a qualified third party, often referred to as ‘advise to pay.’

How has life insurance changed and why is this coverage important?
A recent study found nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers, across all generations, believe having a life insurance benefit available at work is important. This importance has grown over the past five years, an increase of 22 percent. For many, it is the only life insurance they own. Group life insurance can fill gaps in coverage and the purchasing power of a large group helps keep the coverage affordable for the employer.

Sixty-five percent of employees with group life coverage believe they need more life insurance beyond what their employer provides. Depending on the plan design and type and amount of coverage elected, employees may be able to buy additional life insurance without answering health questions. Some plans allow employees to purchase coverage on a spouse and/or dependent children. Buying life insurance at work is convenient because premiums can be paid through payroll deduction. When they leave the employer, people typically can choose to maintain coverage, paying premiums to the insurance company.

Employers that don’t have group life or group disability should meet with their insurance consultant. They most likely will be surprised by the relative low cost involved in establishing a program that can provide additional value to their employees.

Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant Continues Focus on Safety and Efficiency

Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy

The Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant located in Salem Township is on track to generate more power in 2017 than in any other year in its 35-year history, according to Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy. While nuclear plants across the country have been shutting down in recent years due to low energy pricing, the Susquehanna station has been improving operational efficiencies to remain competitive. Rausch’s comments were made to local elected officials and representatives of the business community at a recent meeting.

In late September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to “issue a final rule requiring its organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s power system.” The construction of natural gas power plants combined with federal subsidies for the development of wind and solar power generation has resulted in lower energy prices that threaten the viability of traditional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Shuttering these plants could put the nation’s base power supply at risk. Mr. Rausch noted that Talen Energy is interested in a level playing field to ensure fair competition. He does not expect to see any changes in the immediate future.

When Talen Energy became a privately-held corporation in December of 2016, Rausch noted that Team Susquehanna remained committed to the safety and health of the community. In addition to dozens of emergency preparedness drills conducted in 2017, the annual refueling was completed last on time and on budget with no injuries .

House State Government Committee Advances Paycheck Protection Legislation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

In late November, the House State Government Committee held a voting meeting where two bills were advanced to the House floor that would bar public employers from using taxpayer-funded public systems to automatically deduct from employees’ paychecks campaign contributions or any portion of union dues intended for political activity.

House Bill 1174 and Senate Bill 166 (which passed the Senate earlier this year) both cleared the committee on a party-line vote, with Democrats voting in the negative. Commonly referred to as “paycheck protection” legislation, such measures have been introduced and hotly debated in previous sessions. The organized labor community has strongly opposed any change to the status quo while other groups have advocated ensuring that government resources aren’t being used for political purposes.

The PA Chamber supports paycheck protection bills as good government measures; and previously observed that arrests and convictions of several lawmakers and staffers in recent years have shown that a clear line must be maintained to avoid any use of taxpayer resources for political activity.

Both bills now await further consideration by the full House.