Wolf Budget Includes Additional Investments in Education and Business

On Tuesday, PA Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his 2017-18 budget proposal. His General Fund budget of $32.3 billion represents an increase of $571.5 million, or 1.8 percent, over the current spending plan. Cuts and savings of $2 billion are included to avoid “broad-based tax increases”. Wolf continues to advocate for additional spending on education. Included in his budget is a $100 million increase for Pre-K to 12 basic education. The budget also would provide an additional $8.9 million for the 14 universities of the State System of Higher Education.

The plan seeks to support manufacturers by establishing an apprenticeship grant program and a manufacturing training-to-career grant program. A “one-stop-shop” would be created within the Department of Community and Economic Development to streamline the process for business establishment or expansion. An additional $2.5 million is proposed to assist economic development organizations in reaching out to identify employer needs. The Governor’s budget also provides $6.1 million for tourism marketing at the state level. Of immediate concern to the business community, the Governor continues his push for an increase in the minimum wage to $12 per hour.

A severance tax on the natural gas industry is again being proposed. And, the expansion of sales tax is also included in the budget, but limited to specialty software and computer services, prepared food sold to airlines, aircraft maintenance and repair, and business storage that does not contribute to a justifiable return in increased business investment. Cuts and savings amounting to a projected $2 billion include consolidating state agencies. The Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole would be merged into a new Department of Criminal Justice. A new Department of Health and Human services would merge the program functions of the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

A summary of the Governor’s proposal is available here. Additional details on the impact of the proposed budget will be provided in the coming weeks. A budget breakfast program is also being scheduled for members this spring.

State Preemption of Local Leave Mandate Bill Clears Senate Committee

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last week, the Senate Local Government Committee advanced legislation that would establish state preemption of laws that require employers to implement specific employee leave policies.

Senate Bill 128, co-sponsored by Senator Gordner, was authored in light of recently enacted laws in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that require employers to adopt a one-size-fits-all employee leave and paid time off policy. These mandates fail to take into account the size, industry and financial stability that make businesses unique. They especially harm businesses that operate in multiple jurisdictions, as they force employers to take on new administrative complications and costs as they tailor their HR policies to a patchwork of local laws.

Before the committee meeting to consider S.B. 128, the PA Chamber sent a memo urging support for the bill because it would help employers and improve the state’s business climate. The Columbia Montour Chamber supported similar legislation that moved through the House in 2014.   The legislation now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Join Us For an Evening of Fellowship and Member Recognition

The Columbia Montour Partnership will recognize businesses and individuals that have worked to strengthen our region at the upcoming Annual Meeting. The event is sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities and will be held at Rolling Pines Golf Course on Thursday, February 9th starting at 5:00 p.m. Join us in celebrating our region and the accomplishments of our members.

Awards include: Outstanding Citizen sponsored by BIDA, Small Business of the Year sponsored by First Columbia Bank and Trust Co., Large Business of the Year sponsored by the Columbia Alliance for Economic Growth, Community Progress sponsored by Berwick Hospital Center and the Buddy Award sponsored by Knoebels Amusement Resort.

The cost to attend is $50 for members and $60 for non-members. Corporate tables of eight are also available for $350 per table. Please be sure to send your RSVP card back by this coming Tuesday, January 31st to ensure your spot at this year’s meeting.  If you have not received an invitation in the mail or want to pay via credit card, please call Eleanor at 570-784-2522.  Space is limited!

This year’s award nominees have been announced:

Outstanding Citizen Award
Ann Marie Hess
Daniel S. Jankowski
Harry Mathias

Small Business of the Year
Forever Green
Freas Farm Winery
Ken Pollock Ford-Lincoln, Inc
MePush
WHLM

Large Business of the Year
Central Columbia School District
Mahindra of Bloomsburg
MetroCast Communications
Sekisui

Community Progress Award
Columbia County Commissioners
Geisinger Health System-Woodbine
SUEZ

Welcome the Chamber’s Newest Members

More than 580 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber and Visitors Bureau to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy, and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities.

The Chamber and Visitors Bureau welcome three organizations that joined last month to help us fulfill our mission:

Ceiba Tools, LLC – 83 Schoolhouse Road, Bloomsburg

Invicta Tattoo – 120 East Main Street, Bloomsburg

Nickle Plate Bar & Grill – 954 State Route 487, Elysburg

Additional contact information is available on the Chamber’s Online Directory.

A reminder that anyone who recommends membership will receive a $25 gift certificate when that organization joins.

Investors’ Circle Members Receive Added Value

The Chamber is pleased to announce its 2017 Investors’ Circle Members. The Investors’ Circle is comprised of members that support the ongoing work of the Chamber while receiving the highest levels of benefits and value from their membership. Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, PPL Electric Utilities, and Williams all have partnered with the Chamber as VIP Members this year, and will be recognized as main sponsors throughout the year at various Chamber functions and events.

We would also like to thank our five Benefactor Members: Gordner Coombs Insurance Inc., Steph’s Subs, Victor Koons Graphic Design, Wagner’s Trophies, and Welch Performance Consulting.

Through the continued support of our Investors’ Circle Members, we are able to continuously work toward promoting the region and member businesses in a positive manner. Thank you to all 2017 Investors’ Circle Members!