Roundtable Event with Sen. Toomey Focuses on Impact of Trump Tariffs on Businesses

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

PA Chamber President Gene Barr participated last week in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for a dialogue about federal trade policies impacting businesses in the Commonwealth.  In addition to Barr, the event – which was held at the PA Manufacturers Association’s offices in Harrisburg – also welcomed PMA President Dave Taylor, business leaders and chambers of commerce. 

Senator Toomey addressed a number of issues, including the importance of maintaining a strong trade relationship with Canada and protecting intellectual property rights. The discussion focused particularly on concerns with the Trump administration’s newly-imposed tariffs, including those imposed on goods from countries with which the United States has traditionally enjoyed a strong trade relationship – including Canada, which is undoubtedly the nation’s closet ally and trade partner.   Toomey mentioned his sponsorship, along with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, of legislation that would require Congressional approval for the president to invoke tariffs against another country under the guise of national security.  

As highlighted in a Pennlive article on the roundtable, the business leaders in attendance had plenty of stories to share regarding how their industries have been negatively impacted by the tariffs – either through the loss of sales, reduced export opportunities, material costs and a growing sense of uncertainty with respect to potential future tariffs or retaliatory tariffs from the countries being targeted.

For its part, the U.S. Chamber is resolved to educate elected officials, business leaders and the general public about the negative economic impact of these tariffs and launched a website, www.TheWrongApproach.com, which highlights the economic losses that each state could experience through the imposition of these tariffs.  The website’s data shows that an emerging trade war brought on by tariffs threatens to undo the good that was achieved through last year’s Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, along with regulatory reforms that have been implemented since the start of the Trump administration.  Retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries on U.S. exports will make American-made goods more expensive, resulting in lost sales and potentially 1.6 million lost jobs. In Pennsylvania, $1.7 billion worth of exports are at risk, including coffee, motorcycles, and steel; along with 1,658,100 jobs in the Commonwealth that are supported by global trade.

Have the administration’s tariff decisions had an impact on your business, or do you foresee a future impact?  If so, we’d like to hear from you. Per our international trade and exporting policy, the PA Chamber has traditionally advocated in support of public policy and initiatives that promote free and fair trade, open investment, and regulatory cooperation.  Our organization also recently signed on to a U.S. Chamber-led letter in support of Toomey’s legislation, and raised concerns that unrestricted use of the laws regarding the levying of tariffs – as has been done with the recent steel and aluminum tariffs – could result in retaliatory tariffs from America’s largest trading partners and allies, which would have serious negative economic impacts on the United States.

Comments can be directed to PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Alex Halper  by email or 717-720-5471. Members are also invited to provide information on any impacts of tariffs to Columbia Montour Chamber president Fred Gaffney at 570-784-2522 or email. Information can be kept anonymous at member request.

Chamber Seeking Input of Impacts of Tariffs

President Donald Trump held a rally Aug. 2 in Wilkes-Barre, where he touted his “America First” trade policy that has included the imposition of tariffs on a variety of goods from countries with which the United States has traditionally enjoyed a strong trade partnership, including Canada and Mexico.   These tariffs have prompted approximately $75 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs on American products – increasing costs on American families, workers, consumers and job creators. The Chamber is seeking input from members on positive and negative impacts of these tariffs on businesses in our area.

The administration is reportedly considering hundreds of billions of dollars in additional tariffs – including on autos and auto parts – which many business leaders and economists are saying will invite more retaliation against American businesses.  The U.S. Chamber is leading an effort to educate the business community and the general public about the negative economic impact of these tariffs through a comprehensive website, TheWrongApproach.com, which highlights the economic losses that each state could endure through the imposition of these tariffs.

The data on the website shows that this emerging trade war is threatening to undo the good that was achieved through last year’s Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, along with regulatory reforms that have been implemented since the start of the Trump administration.   Retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries on U.S. exports will make American-made goods more expensive, resulting in lost sales and potentially 1.6 million lost jobs. In Pennsylvania, $1.7 billion worth of exports are at risk, including coffee, motorcycles, and steel; along with 1,658,100 jobs in the Commonwealth that are supported by global trade.

Members are invited to provide information on any impacts of tariffs to Chamber President Fred Gaffney at 570-784-2522 or email. Information can be kept anonymous at member request.

PA Chamber: Wolf Administration Workers’ Comp Opioid Guidelines Inadequate

The PA Chamber issued a response last week to new guidelines unveiled by the Wolf administration regarding how opioids are prescribed in workers’ compensation cases.  The guidelines were issued as part of an Executive Order the governor signed in lieu of a far more effective prescription drug formulary bill.

In a news release, Gov. Tom Wolf said the guidelines include methods to help promote “safe, quality health care; ensure patient pain relief,” and reduce addiction to opioids; adding that the guidelines were written to help “ensure that health care providers who treat patients with work-related injuries have the guidance they need.”  However, the PA Chamber has pushed back on the notion that these guidelines are somehow a legitimate substitution for S.B. 936, legislation which would have established a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation.  Formularies are standard across healthcare and states that have implemented them within their workers’ comp systems have seen reductions in prescription drug abuse and addiction among injured workers.  Senate Bill 936 was a top priority for the PA Chamber, which organized a broad coalition of support, including more than 70 local chambers of commerce, health care and employer organizations to urge lawmakers to support the bill and help to mitigate the state’s prescription drug and opioid addiction crisis as it relates to injured workers.  While the legislation passed the General Assembly, it was vetoed by the Governor.

“The governor announced his intent to issue these guidelines the day before he vetoed Senate Bill 936 and at the time we expressed our concern that an executive order to issue guidelines is simply not an adequate substitution for legislation, as they are inherently temporary solutions that do not carry the full force of law and lack critical oversight and accountability,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in last week’s statement.

“Fighting the opioid epidemic has been a top priority for this administration, which clearly recognizes the magnitude of this crisis. Surely we can all agree that the stakes are too high for half-measures and symbolic gestures. We look forward to continuing to work with the Wolf administration and the Legislature on this issue.”

Health Savings Account and High Deductible Health Plan Limits Will Increase For 2019

From ChamberChoice

On May 10, 2018, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2018-30 to announce the inflation-adjusted limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2019. These limits include:

  • The maximum HSA contribution limit;
  • The minimum deductible amount for HDHPs; and
  • The maximum out-of-pocket expense limit for HDHPs.

These limits vary based on whether an individual has self-only or family coverage under an HDHP. See the table at left for the respective limits in each category. 

The IRS limits for HSA contributions will increase for 2019. The HDHP maximum out-of-pocket limits will also increase for 2019. The HSA contribution limits will increase effective Jan. 1, 2019, while the HDHP limits will increase effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

Tax Code Change Regarding Bonus Depreciation Will Improve PA’s Tax Structure, Competitiveness

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The 2018-19 fiscal year has begun and for the first time in more than three years, the Commonwealth is starting the new fiscal year with an enacted budget in place. With state revenues on an upswing and a General Election right around the corner,  legislative leaders and the governor were very clear that this year’s budget process would be different than previous years in the Wolf era – and it was. Working together, the four legislative caucuses and administration were able to come to an agreement on a $32.7 billion spending plan that increased spending by 2 percent but doesn’t include any tax increases. In a break from years past, the budget was signed into law by the governor a full week prior to the June 30 constitutional deadline. That spirit of cooperation didn’t end with budget negotiations. The first half of June also saw a flurry of legislative activity as the General Assembly worked to get several bills to the governor’s desk prior to the summer session break – including S.B.1056 – bonus depreciation legislation.

This legislation addressed a serious competitiveness issue for Pennsylvania employers that resulted from a state Department of Revenue policy change. Last December, days after the federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was passed, the Department of Revenue issued a ruling that significantly changed employers’ tax filing on capital investments – primarily for the purchase of new equipment to expand or improve production at their facilities – to reflect those purchases when filing their income taxes. The ruling reversed a policy enacted under the Corbett administration that allowed for 100 percent bonus depreciation; and also stripped away the depreciation benefits enumerated under the recently enacted federal tax reform package.

At a time when the Commonwealth’s economy is starting to pick up – thanks in large part to federal tax reform – this policy change sent the wrong message to job creators. Shortly after the department implemented this change, we started hearing from our members that they would likely never experience tax relief under the ruling as they would be far more likely to try to repair an expensive piece of equipment before attempting to discard or sell it. Additionally, the change gave Pennsylvania the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in the nation to disallow any form of accelerated depreciation. This put the Commonwealth at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Over the past several months, the PA Chamber – with the help of our local chamber partners – led the charge in advocating for legislation to reverse this harmful rule. The state’s elected officials realized the negative impact this rule would have on Pennsylvania’s economic climate and worked to create a legislative fix. Senate Bill 1056 passed both chambers with large bipartisan support and was sent to the governor’s desk in the waning session days of June. Last month the governor signed the bill into law as Act 72 of 2018.

Following passage of S.B. 1056, we applauded the General Assembly for working quickly to address this issue. This legislation will help to put Pennsylvania on a more level playing field with other states and improve Pennsylvania’s overall competitiveness. We look forward to working with elected officials for the remainder of this Legislative session and the upcoming 2019-20 session on pro-growth policies that will continue to improve the Commonwealth’s economic climate.