PA Chamber member employers throughout Pennsylvania are describing business this past year and future prospects for growth somewhat more optimistically, according to the PA Chamber’s annual Pennsylvania Economic Survey conducted in September and October of 2016. Of the 350 employers surveyed, 43 percent saw increased sales over the last year and 54 percent expect increases next year, up from 33 percent and 39 percent, respectively, from last year. Also encouraging are results showing workforce increases last year and planned for the coming year are up as well. These positive responses are tempered by other feedback showing that only half of respondents rate Pennsylvania’s business climate as either “excellent” or “good”, nearly four out of five believe the business climate has not improved or even gotten worse and 18 percent would leave Pennsylvania if they could.
The goal for policymakers should be a state in which all employers want to stay, thrive and grow their business. Pennsylvania has the talented workforce and resources necessary for companies to compete with their counterparts in other states and around the world. We urge lawmakers to pursue a public policy agenda that will improve the Commonwealth’s business climate and reinforce optimism among Pennsylvania employers.
Responsible state spending and smart government
The PA Chamber urges the legislature and Governor to work collaboratively toward enactment of a responsible, on-time state budget. Significant financial pressures have clearly complicated state finances and budget deliberations; and while these circumstances will inevitably prompt calls for additional revenue, we strongly believe that all opportunities for cost-savings and other reforms should be exhausted before new or higher taxes are considered. The PA Chamber supports efforts to fairly address the unfunded liability in the state pension systems and provide for the long-term solvency of these programs, including transitioning them to defined-contribution plans. The PA Chamber also supports efforts to identify opportunities to utilize public-private partnerships and consider privatizing government services that could be more efficiently conducted by the private sector.
Improve the business tax structure
Pennsylvania’s corporate tax policies and tax rate continue to put the Commonwealth at a competitive disadvantage. Recent changes including improving the tax appeals process and increasing the cap on the use of Net Operating Losses were steps in the right direction; however, comprehensive reforms of and reductions in business taxes are still necessary to help stimulate economic development. Businesses support the enactment of pro-growth tax policies such as eliminating the cap on the use of Net Operating Losses and reducing the Corporate Net Income tax rate.
Affordable and accessible health care
Health-care costs continue to rise at unsustainable levels. Businesses must be able to offer appropriate health-care benefits to their employees either through traditional coverage or alternative options in the marketplace. Employers seek continued reforms to the medical liability climate and limits on the expansion of costly health-care coverage mandates. The PA Chamber will continue to work through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of harmful provisions that are directly leading to unaffordable rates while maintaining a high level of quality care and accessibility for employees.
Flexibility in energy markets and science-based environmental requirements
Numerous state and federal environmental regulations and energy mandates are hindering the state’s economic positions. The PA Chamber opposes the imposition of new, and the expansion of existing, mandates and will continue to advocate for thoughtful, science-based development and flexible implementation of environmental law.
Creating an equitable civil justice system
Pennsylvania’s legal climate is conducive to frivolous lawsuits and lacks protections that create a fair, balanced and common sense system. The business community supports legal reforms that help prevent lawsuit abuse while protecting the right of legitimate plaintiffs to seek justice. The PA Chamber supports lawsuit abuse reform proposals that provide for full and timely compensation of parties legitimately injured; give employers predictability and certainty; change the judicial system to achieve greater efficiencies and unbiased justice; and contribute to greater productivity and economic prosperity.
Modern, safe, efficient and reliable infrastructure systems
Pennsylvania must construct and maintain adequately funded and reliable transportation and utility systems and other infrastructure. The PA Chamber will continue to advocate for greater efficiencies in their construction, maintenance and delivery, including streamlined permit and regulatory processes.
Balanced labor and employment laws and regulations
State laws and regulations that dictate labor relations and employment policies in Pennsylvania are often outdated, insufficient or unbalanced and changes are necessary to address abuses and facilitate a fair work environment. Employers support eliminating misuse and improving the financial condition of the unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation systems. The business community opposes excessive mandates and artificial wage inflators that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business. In addition, Pennsylvania law still forces individuals to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment and allows public resources to be used for collecting union dues and political contributions. The PA Chamber supports the prohibition of both practices.
Quality educational opportunities
Pennsylvania’s prosperity depends upon a well-educated workforce. The PA Chamber supports an education system that establishes clear accountability and provides every child with the opportunity to receive a quality education that will adequately prepare them for gainful employment or further education. The PA Chamber supports initiatives that help provide families with options to best fit the specific education needs of students, including voucher programs, charter schools and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. Lifelong learning can be vital for workers in a consistently evolving economy, and the PA Chamber supports workforce development programs that have clear performance criteria and are targeted to the employment needs of the business community.
Beyond its members' core Legislative Agenda, the PA Chamber's advocacy efforts reach issues ranging from state/local government concerns and workforce development, to technology and general commerce – all of which have implications for Pennsylvania's job creators and overall economy.