Budget Proposal Doesn’t Offer Real Solutions for Pension Crisis

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last Tuesday, March 3, Gov. Tom Wolf gave his first budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly. The plan calls for nearly $34 billion in total spending for the 2015-16 fiscal year, an increase of 16 percent over the current year’s spending.

Most concerning to the PA Chamber is that the budget plan fails to offer any real solutions for addressing a $50 billion and growing pension crisis that will place enormous financial burdens on every Pennsylvania taxpayer if nothing is done. In a press release issued the same day as the budget address, PA Chamber President Gene Barr warned that pension obligations will grow by $1 billion over the next three years alone and stressed the urgency for substantive pension reform in order to protect the Commonwealth’s economic stability and competitiveness.

In order to fund billions in additional spending, Governor Wolf is calling for increases in many employer taxes – including increases in the sales and personal income tax rates and expanding the sales tax base to many additional goods and all professional services. And while the PA Chamber applauds the governor’s efforts to reduce Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax rate – which at 9.99 percent is the highest in the nation – there are concerns about his call to institute unitary combined reporting which would create a more confusing, unpredictable and costly tax climate for job creators.

Lastly, the PA Chamber has already voiced opposition to Governor Wolf’s plan to institute another tax on the natural gas industry. Replacing the current impact tax with the governor’s proposed five percent severance tax would take money that’s currently being directed to local communities and put it into the General Fund for Harrisburg to spend. Furthermore, a higher tax on Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing industry would have a direct negative impact on core and ancillary jobs and would harm our state’s competitive advantage in the shale play.

The Columbia Montour Chamber will be working closely with the PA Chamber to address concerns with the Governor’s proposals and is also attempting to schedule a local budget briefing with a representative of the Wolf Administration for members.

Member Spotlight


The original Gordner Insurance Agency was founded by Glenn Gordner, former mayor of Millville, in 1956. When he passed away in 1989, Donna Coombs, the current owner, purchased the agency. In 2007, she incorporated the agency as GordnerCoombs Insurance Inc. and recommitted to providing quality insurance service and products.
GordnerCoombs Insurance prides themselves on being a name you can trust for most insurance needs.  They service and sell all lines of insurance, except health. This includes auto and home, business, and life insurance. GordnerCoombs is an independent insurance agency that primarily represents Erie Insurance as well as Millville Mutual, Progressive, American Bankers, and J C Taylor.

GordnerCoombs cares about their clients and community. They are actively involved with the United Way of Columbia County and the United Way Women’s Leadership Council. They also support the Little Fishing Creek Area Swimming Pool and the Millville Community Fire Co. This year marks their fourth sponsoring a team for Jorge’s Walk to Defeat ALS at the Bloomsburg Town Park on May 16th.  To date, their team has raised over $7,000 to defeat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in memory of a former staff member and Bloomsburg resident, Vera Hoffman, who succumbed to ALS in 2010.

Contact GordnerCoombs at (570) 458-6015 or visit www.gordnerinsurance.com for more information.

The subject of each month’s Member Spotlight is selected from attendees of Chamber events.

Dine to Donate to United Way of Columbia County

Local restaurants are stepping up to support their community by contributing a portion of sales to the United Way of Columbia County. Each restaurant will contribute 10-15% of meals (excluding alcohol) purchased at their establishments on various dates through March 11; no coupon is needed to participate.

Upcoming events include:

Place: Turkey Hill Brewing Company
Date: Sunday, March 8
Time: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Place: The Links
Date: Wednesday, March 11
Time: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Special Finale Fundraiser: Basket raffle and silent auction with dozens of items valued at over $3,000 for all tastes in honor of John Thomas’ impending retirement after 30 years as the chief executive officer of the United Way of Columbia County. Auction and raffle winners announced promptly at 8 p.m. (winners do not need to be present to win). All proceeds from both fundraisers benefit the United Way and its 15 member agencies that serve more than 39,000 children and adults who live in Columbia County.

PA Chamber Responds to Renewed Calls for Minimum Wage Increase

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last week, the PA Chamber spoke out against a renewed attempt by proponents to impose mandatory wage hikes on employers. The “Raise the Wage” coalition marched to the state Capitol to voice support for legislation that would force employers to pay workers as high as $15 an hour, without any regard to their ability to pay that amount.  Their message was given backing by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (who spoke at the event,) some lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf. PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Alex Halper expressed the business community’s concerns with this misguided approach to addressing Pennsylvania’s income gap in TV interviews.

The PA Chamber helped defeat similar legislation last session by pointing out that a government mandated wage increase would have a negative impact on many employers, particularly Pennsylvania’s small business community. The last time the state raised the minimum wage, small business owners were forced to shelve expansion plans, reduce employee hours, limit hiring and in some cases, cut jobs. The Columbia Montour Chamber also sent letters to state lawmakers opposing a minimum wage increase.

Various legislative proposals to increase the minimum wage have been authored this session, and Governor Wolf voiced support for a bill by state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin last week that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Rather than implement an across-the-board wage hike that doesn’t take businesses’ individual financial situations into account, the PA Chamber has urged lawmakers to pursue more effective, targeted policies like strengthening successful workforce development programs that allow employees to transition upward through the workforce, develop career-building skills and earn better wages.

Destination Blues Heating Up Our Area This Weekend

On February 6th, 7th and 8th, Columbia & Montour counties will heat up with the second annual Destination Blues Music Festival, “Your Winter Blues Heaven on Route 11.”  This event is presented by the Moose Exchange and Downtown Bloomsburg Inc.

Friday’s activities expand this year from the four area brew pubs (Old Forge in Danville, Berwick Brewing, and Marley’s and Turkey Hill in Bloomsburg) to seven additional venues in Berwick, Bloomsburg, Danville, and in between, with bands at every one.  Bus transportation will run among all of the venues and participating hotels for only $5 per person.  There will be no cover charge at any of the participating venues.

Wake up on Saturday the 7th to a free Blues Breakfast at Fog & Flame Coffee & Espresso in Bloomsburg, featuring Sweeney & Rosencrans, followed by a Blues Brunch and Lunch at the Capitol Restaurant right across Main Street with Swampcandy.

Then get ready for the main event on Saturday afternoon and evening at the Caldwell Consistory in Bloomsburg. Eight bands will appear on the two stages. Participants will find food and drink and a variety of vendors at the Consistory, and buses will run between the Consistory and participating hotels throughout the evening.

On Sunday the 8th, for the first time ever, the largest church sanctuary in Bloomsburg at Wesley United Methodist, will host Gospel Blues: Alexis P. Suter and the Ministers of Sound will perform backed by a choir of local residents.

The low-priced advance tickets cover bus transportation on Friday and Saturday among the venues and participating hotels, plus admission to the Consistory, Gospel Blues, or both: $25 for Friday/Saturday, $25 for Sunday only, and $40 for all three days.  Many hotels will offer discounts and/or packages; for updated information, visit www.DestinationBlues.org.