January 9, 2017
In his recent oped (The rich can take the hit - to fix the budget, they should pay their fair share), Marc Stier offers a short-sighted remedy for Pennsylvania's fiscal woes - just tax businesses more. While it's certainly an approach that's been taken before - General Fund spending increased more than $8 billion from 2002 through 2010 (before the Great Recession and a $4 billion budget deficit called for a serious return to fiscal discipline) - placing new tax burdens on employers doesn't fix funding gaps. It only weakens our state's economic standing, limits new investment and slows job growth. Additionally, Stier's call to expand the sales tax to services wouldn't hurt the big businesses he claims aren't paying their "fair share," but smaller businesses that are the backbones of their local economies.
The truth is that for Stier and others who constantly advocate for higher spending, there will never be a business tax they don't like. Unfortunately, those taxes don't just impact businesses, but citizens too, as they get passed down to consumers in the form of higher costs for goods and services.
Stier also brushes off the impact of Pennsylvania's growing pension crisis on our dismal fiscal situation. The public pension systems are the state's No. 1 cost driver - more than 60 cents of every new dollar of revenue goes directly into retirement plans for state and public school employees. The pension debt is the main catalyst behind continued credit rating downgrades. It also contributes to higher personal income taxes every single year. Only through comprehensive pension reforms can we begin to get these out-of-control costs reined in and ensure stability in retirement plans for current and future participants. The PA Chamber agrees with Stier's view that Pennsylvania lawmakers should look for efficiencies in state government, but that doesn't have to be done while simultaneously looking for new ways to grow state spending.
SAM DENISCO, Harrisburg
The writer is the vice president, government affairs, PA Chamber of Business and Industry