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The New Year has begun and with it, a new legislative session. On Jan. 1, the entire House and Senate took the oath of office, marking the official start of the 2019-20 legislative session. The rest of the month will be dominated by the necessary legislative housekeeping measures required to get the General Assembly up and running – committee chairs will soon be announced, followed closely by each member’s committee assignments. On Jan. 15, Gov. Tom Wolf will officially start his second term, bringing a new lieutenant governor – Lt. Gov-elect John Fetterman – onto the scene to preside over the state Senate. Before you know it, we’ll be well into February with the governor’s fifth budget address and budget hearings with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
For the PA Chamber and our broad-based membership, the start of a new session brings renewed opportunities to push for pro-growth public policies. We are ready to the ground running as we work with elected officials and our local chamber partners to improve the Commonwealth’s overall business climate. In December we finalized our 2019 legislative agenda, which focuses on the need for tax reform. Amazon’s recent decision to split its second headquarters between northern Virginia and New York City make now a perfect time to take a hard look at Pennsylvania’s tax structure and determine if we’re doing all we can to make the Commonwealth the most attractive option for businesses of all sizes to locate and hire.
Armed with facts in the Tax Foundation’s recent report on the Commonwealth’s business climate, the PA Chamber is making the case to lawmakers this coming session that Pennsylvania needs to implement tax reforms that will mirror reforms at the federal level. Chief among these goals is the reduction of our state’s Corporate Net Income Tax, which at 9.99 percent is among the highest effective rates in the nation and presents one of the largest hurdles for attracting new investment and creating jobs.
Additionally, we will also be focusing our efforts on workforce development in 2019. In its announcement on where it will be bringing 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in new investment, Amazon cited workforce readiness as a major factor in its final decision on where to locate. It’s no secret that Pennsylvania struggles in this area. In fact, our 28th Annual Economic Survey showed that for the first time ever, employers listed difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill open positions as the No. 1 hurdle facing their businesses. Our organization continues the fight to close the jobs skills gap through our dynamic “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative, which provides job creators and job seekers with the information they need to get on the path to a skilled trade career. This fall, we were proud to have again teamed up with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to distribute a second round of scholarships to students who are pursuing a skilled trade. Thanks in large part to the generosity of employers, we awarded 25 of these students more than $108,000 in financial assistance. I encourage you to check out this scholar spotlight in the latest issue of Catalyst and visit the website, StartTheConversationHere.com, to find out how you can help to be a part of the skills gap solution through a tax-deductible scholarship donation.
As we embark on 2019, we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with our local chamber partners. Working together to advance policies that will promote private sector job growth is the best way to improve economies across the Commonwealth, and boost our economic competitiveness for the benefit of every Pennsylvanian.