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As mega-conglomerate Amazon narrows down the field this year on where to build their second headquarters – and the 50,000 jobs it will bring – two Pennsylvania locations (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) are left standing among the top 20. The reasons for this are easy to understand – we’re located within a day’s drive from 60 percent of the nation’s population; our cost of living is lower than many other surrounding states; we boast a number of world-class educational institutions; we’re a resource-rich state that presents many industrial opportunities; and of course we have a working population that is second-to-none. As we consider the many aspects that make Pennsylvania such a great choice for business, there are also areas in which we need to improve — and that’s why from the time of our founding more than 100 years ago until today, the PA Chamber’s mission is to help make our Commonwealth the best possible place for companies of all sizes to locate, invest and hire.To that end, one of the core areas we continue to work with lawmakers on is the reduction of our state’s uncompetitive Corporate Net Income Tax, which at 9.99 percent is the highest effective rate in the nation. This presents a major red flag for any business. Reducing this rate to a more competitive level has been a long-time priority for the PA Chamber, but we need this reform to be without any “strings attached,” including with the implementation of mandatory unitary combined reporting, as Governor Wolf has proposed in his 2018-19 state budget plan. We’re also advocating eliminating the current cap on Net Operating Loss Carryforwards, among other changes that will bring clarity and predictability to the state’s Tax Code. Pennsylvania lawmakers need to take a page out of the federal government’s book, which implemented the most sweeping national tax reforms in more than 30 years this past December. In the months since, numerous companies have announced plans to re-invest their savings from this tax bill back into their facilities and workers – a classic case of how the private sector can harness the power of economic growth on its own, and which also makes a convincing argument against misguided, “feel good” polices like minimum wage mandates.

Also in the way of taxes, we’re again urging lawmakers to reject the Wolf administration’s continued call for another punitive tax on the natural gas industry. The Marcellus and Utica Shale that we are fortunate enough to have here in the Commonwealth is helping to secure our position as a domestic and international energy leader for generations to come – in fact, it has already brought the equivalent of TWO Amazons to our state in terms of new jobs.

As we work to build upon and sustain our state’s dynamic energy sector, we’re also focused on cutting through regulatory red tape to make it easier for energy companies to operate. This session, our organization has communicated our support of numerous regulatory reform bills to lawmakers – including legislation that would streamline and bring efficiency to the permitting process; ensure that the legislative branch plays a key role in regulatory development; and consider the economic impact of new regulations on the business community as a whole. The good news is that many of these policy goals have earned bipartisan support, and Governor Wolf announced earlier this year that he’s also taking steps to make sure that the state’s permitting and regulatory programs are more predictable and accountable.

Pennsylvania must also embrace policies that ensure the private sector they will be able to compete on an equal playing field with unions when bidding on projects. More than half of the 50 states are Right to Work states, meaning that they prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make union membership or payment of dues or fees a condition of employment. The states that have enacted Right to Work laws have seen tremendous economic benefits, as employers have more flexibility in their ability to negotiate the terms of employment with their workers; and Pennsylvania – which is NOT a Right to Work state—has undoubtedly lost out on economic development opportunities. In that same vein, we’re also promoting legislation this session that would prohibit project labor agreements in the Commonwealth. These agreements require companies to commit to use unionized labor as a prerequisite to be considered for work on public construction projects; forcing companies whose employees are not members of a union to either forgo bidding on a project or lay off their own employees so they can get union workers to do the job.

Lastly, in order to build a workforce that is primed to take on 21st century jobs, the PA Chamber is continuing this year with our efforts to award scholarships to people who want to pursue careers in the skilled trades. Visit our website, www.starttheconversationhere.com, to learn how we’re partnering with business leaders throughout the Commonwealth, educators, students and their families to provide insight into these in-demand and forward-looking positions; and how you can contribute toward closing the jobs skills gap and help students on the path to a vibrant and rewarding career.

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