When Gov. Tom Wolf first took office, he adopted the mantra, “Jobs that Pay. Schools That Teach. Government That Works.” when describing his policy priorities. In many ways, our member businesses have indicated that the PA Chamber’s mission is much the same – to create a robust environment for job creation; schools that allow every student, regardless of their socio-economic background, to have the opportunity to earn a high quality education; and a government that runs efficiently for the Commonwealth’s citizens and employers.
However, it’s how those goals are achieved where there tends to be disagreement. For example, Gov. Wolf touted a reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income tax rate as part of his 2018-19 state budget plan. But he wants to couple it with mandatory unitary combined reporting, which the PA Chamber has long opposed for the administrative and tax burdens it imposes on employers. The governor also wants to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage rate from $7.25 an hour all the way up to $12 an hour. The PA Chamber remains outspoken in our members’ opposition to government mandated wage hikes – they simply don’t help low-income workers improve their financial outcomes, and force them to compete against each other for fewer jobs.
In the view of the business community, the way to ensure that the Commonwealth has “jobs that pay” is through strengthened workforce development programs that help guide students and workers into the in-demand occupations that will offer family-sustaining wages in the long-term. Workforce development is a core component of the PA Chamber’s mission, through our “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative that is in its second year of promoting employer-paid scholarships for students to pursue a career in the skilled trades. We’re pleased to see that Gov. Wolf has also made workforce development a priority in this budget through a new initiative, PASmart, which is aimed toward closing the state’s jobs skills gap.
For the “schools that teach” component, the governor has again pushed for more spending for basic education in the coming fiscal year. There’s no question that putting taxpayer dollars into student achievement is a worthy investment, but our members believe the money should be earmarked for the classroom – not to continue to prop up the unsustainable benefits packages of public school employees.
The PA Chamber is always ready to work with lawmakers on ways to streamline and simplify state government, and we’re pleased to see that the administration continues to look into department consolidation and other cost-savings initiatives in this year’s budget plan to help save time and money. But saving doesn’t have to mean turning around and spending more hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and this is a point we’ll continue to drive home in the four months before the budget deadline. On behalf of our members, we’re committed to working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle toward a common ground where there can be assurance that state government can do its job, and employers are given the freedom to do theirs.