Gene Barr: Pro-growth policies will move Pa.’s economy forward

Pennsylvania is at a crossroads. For nearly a year, the pandemic has forced job creators to adapt to ever-changing situations and tackle numerous challenges related to shutdowns, closure orders, less economic activity and making sure they’re complying with state- and CDC-issued guidelines. While the development of a covid-19 vaccine has provided a much-needed ray of hope, businesses throughout the state — particularly small businesses — are hanging on by a thread. The decisions elected officials make over the coming months will either set us on a course toward economic growth or significantly delay our recovery efforts.

Unfortunately, rather than take this opportunity to promote innovative solutions, Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal is a reiteration of the aggressive government spending increases he’s previously proposed — paid for via tax hikes and business mandates that have failed to gain legislative approval in the past.

These policies, which include a $15 an hour mandated minimum wage increase, an additional tax on the natural gas industry and a nearly 50% increase to the personal income tax, will increase the cost of doing business in Pennsylvania and make the commonwealth less competitive overall.

Additionally, the governor has once again linked a much-needed reduction in the state’s corporate net income tax — which is one of the nation’s highest — to the implementation of mandatory unitary combined reporting, which will further complicate the state’s tax code and add additional cost burdens on Pennsylvania’s job creators.

Instead of providing a bold vision for how the commonwealth can recover and move forward, the Wolf administration has fallen back on typical government tax and spend proposals.

But there is an alternative.

Through our Bringing PA Back initiative, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, along with our local chamber and industry partners, has developed a pro-growth, forward-thinking agenda that will help employers who are struggling to recover from the pandemic while also encouraging additional investment and attracting emerging and expanding industries to the commonwealth. This strategic approach focuses on improving the state’s competitiveness, infrastructure and work force in order to bring about equality of opportunity for every Pennsylvanian and aid in the state’s economic resurgence.

Common-sense reforms,such as targeted covid liability protections, streamlining and simplifying the state’s tax code, reducing regulatory burdens, and creating greater government efficiency and connectivity, are all central to this vision of building a stronger, more inclusive economy.

We have heard directly from job creators — particularly small businesses — that these policies are what’s needed to help them move Pennsylvania forward. In our view, who is a better choice to lead the charge in driving economic growth and improve the quality of life for every Pennsylvanian than the business community? As the backbones of their local economies, employers are the true experts in the field, who know firsthand the challenges to operating that existed prior to and were exacerbated by this pandemic.

As we move into the new, post-pandemic era, Pennsylvania can be a model for what economic recovery should look like. Working together, the private sector and lawmakers have a real opportunity to write a new chapter for the commonwealth that will set the state firmly on a path toward long-term economic growth.

We are excited about the possibilities and urge lawmakers statewide to realize that we are not adversaries, but people who share a vision of seeing this state overcome the pandemic and move into a brighter future for everyone. By openly communicating and working together, Pennsylvania can — and will ­ — rise to the challenge before us.

Gene Barr is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

Publication: TribLIVE