Chamber Minute

January 2018

Hi, I’m Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber.

Welcome to this month’s Pennsylvania Chamber Minute.

It’s hard to believe that the legislature is getting ready to negotiate another state spending plan, but we’re only weeks away from Governor Tom Wolf’s fourth budget address to the General Assembly. As we prepare for what the 2018-19 spending proposal might look like, we’re encouraged by the ways that our economy appears to be improving. Several months of higher than expected revenue returns, the enactment of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which has made our nation more globally competitive, strong stock market performance and news from some companies that they plan to hire more workers and pay higher wages are all reasons to be positive.

However, this progress doesn’t mean that some elected officials will stop calling for more taxes anytime soon. In fact, we’re anticipating that the governor’s budget address on February 6th will include proposals to target industries for higher taxes to pay for more state spending. Specifically, the administration continues to promote a severance tax on the natural gas industry, despite the fact that natural gas companies have already generated more than $1.2 billion for the Commonwealth. It’s also true that due to the recent decline in drilling activity, another tax won’t even produce a substantial amount of revenue – it will only end up driving the industry to other states in the shale play, which hurts Pennsylvania’s overall competitiveness. We’ve led a broad-based coalition against this effort since the dawn of the current administration, and are gearing up to continue the fight against it and any other undue tax burdens on job creators in 2018.

In these early weeks of the new year, we’re also focused on enacting a bill that would help to mitigate Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis. Senate Bill 936 aims to create a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation patients. Formularies are standard in healthcare, and states that have implemented them as a way to prevent addiction among injured workers have seen positive results. Despite the commonsense approach this bill takes to reduce opioid dependency, opponents – including trial lawyers, and a workers’ compensation law firm with dubious ties to a pharmacy that has been charging outrageous prices on medications – have tried to sideline this bill. But the time for inaction is over. The governor recently declared the opioid epidemic a statewide emergency, and in light of this health crisis, it is both reasonable and responsible to respond by enacting Senate Bill 936. We’re calling on House lawmakers to quickly get it to the governor’s desk and for Governor Wolf to sign it into law.

Thanks for spending a minute of your time with the Pennsylvania Chamber, the Statewide Voice of Business.