Business Leaders Discuss State Economy

From the PA Chamber of Business & Industry
Despite a strong state and national economy, Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal is not realistic according to legislative leaders. The PA Chamber Foundation and the PA Bankers Association joined forces to host the Eighth Annual Economic Forecast and Business Leadership Summit in late February, where leading economic experts weighed in on the state and national fiscal outlook and legislators talked about the upcoming budget negotiations. 

The event kicked off with a presentation by Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, who went over details of the governor’s 2020-21 state budget proposal.  He explained that while the economy is performing well and revenues are slightly above estimates for the year, the gains are not sustainable enough to increase spending by 6 percent, which is what Gov. Wolf has proposed for the coming Fiscal Year in his $36.1 billion budget plan.

Senator Browne touched on the governor’s plan to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage increase, saying that it’s because of the PA Chamber’s leadership that a compromise measure was reached between the Wolf administration and Senate Republicans last year to raise the wage to a more reasonable $9.50 in exchange for rescinding a controversial overtime eligibility expansion.  The state House has not yet taken up this legislation after the Senate’s passage, and the overtime regulation has since been approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and is currently being reviewed by the legislature (the PA Chamber supports a disapproval resolution pending before the General Assembly.)

Browne also noted that the administration’s proposed implementation of combined reporting – a complex and costly tax reporting scheme that the PA Chamber has long opposed – has not been shown to have a positive economic outcome and that it has raised concerns among legislative leaders.  He expressed that the best thing for elected officials to do in crafting the budget is to remain fiscally responsible which includes: managing obligations including pension payments and human services payments; holding the line in spending; prioritizing workforce development; and making sure that the programs the state is funding are producing the desired result.