Governor Wolf marked his 100th day in office by providing a list of accomplishments. In reality, the memo is more of a status update since many of his initiatives, including the natural gas tax and his budget proposal, are a long way from passage.
But the real question is not what the governor accomplished in an arbitrary 100 days, but what he can do over the next 1,360 days to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians. Here’s a few suggestions based on the governor’s goals for Pennsylvania:
Protect taxpayers to foster "jobs that pay."
Elected officials should pass the Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA) to protect the middle-class from reckless spending and tax increases. The TPA limits future government spending to inflation plus population growth. Reining in government spending is critical to creating an economic climate that attracts jobs—and working Pennsylvanians deserve a government that lives within its means.
Put students first to build "schools that teach."
Our education system is broken. From the commonwealth’s senseless funding formula, to wasteful mandates like prevailing wage, to the need for more school choice, there are many ways for the governor to create an education system that truly serves students. Gov. Wolf should work with the legislature to create a funding formula where dollars follow the students, repeal prevailing wage and remove obstacles to greater school choice, such as creating alternative authorizers for charter schools.
Enhance transparency and accountability to create a "government that works."
The lack of transparency in Harrisburg and special privileges enjoyed by select groups have created a system ripe for corruption and abuse. In his next 1,360 days, Governor Wolf has an opportunity to continue promoting transparency by opening the closed-door union contract negotiation process and ending the government unions’ unique privilege of using taxpayer resources for partisan politics.
These reforms are by no means exhaustive, but they would move our state in a pro-growth direction after years of profligate spending, which have failed to revive our historically weak economy. After decades of focusing on finding more revenue for state coffers, it’s time to restrain excessive government and transform Pennsylvania into a state of opportunity again
Is placing 39 out of 50 in any competition acceptable? Most people would say no, which is why a new index published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is so unsettling.
Released on an annual basis, the Rich States, Poor States index ranks states based on their economic performance and economic outlook. In the first category, Pennsylvania performed poorly, ranking 39th. Future economic performance doesn’t look promising either. The authors of the index place Pennsylvania in the bottom ten at 41.
The rankings are based on fifteen different variables that include tax rates, debt service as a share of tax revenue, labor regulations, and tax or expenditure limits. Pennsylvania ranks poorly in nearly all of these areas year after year. As Jana Benscoter of Watchdog points out, Pennsylvania’s economic outlook ranking has never been higher than 33rd.
This isn’t surprising given the dramatic growth of government spending and taxation since 1970 and Pennsylvania’s inhospitable regulatory environment, both of which are roadblocks to job creation and prosperity.
But Pennsylvania doesn't have to continue down this path. If the commonwealth lowers the tax burden on businesses and families, restrains spending growth, and fixes its regulatory climate, we can shed these low rankings and grow an economy that works for everyone.
We're at a watershed moment, with a choice between the largest tax hike in Pennsylvania's history or reducing government spending to leave more in the pockets of Pennsylvanians. It's a choice between prosperity or economic stagnation.
Last week, CF President & CEO Matthew Brouillette appeared on PCN’s Call-In Program with Steve Herzenberg, the Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center, to discuss Gov. Wolf’s costly budget proposal. While Herzenberg defends Wolf’s budget proposal, Matt points to some of the hard realities it will bring to every family in Pennsylvania.
Even though Gov. Wolf campaigned on a promise to not raise taxes on middle class families, his budget proposal would hit them with the largest tax increase in the state’s history.
In attempt to soften the blow of this broken promise, Gov. Wolf wants to implement property tax rebates. Matt explains that even this will fail to help Pennsylvanians since, over the next two years, less than $0.30 of every dollar in new state taxes will be used for property tax rebates.
Rather than put a heavier burden on Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, Matt explains that the government’s focus should be on “creating opportunities for everyone and reduc[ing] the burden of entry into the workplace and the middle class that are trying to grow businesses.”
Watch the full discussion on PCN’s Call-In Program.
The stories continue: more jobs, increased tax revenue and cheap energy, all from the free-market production of Marcellus Shale gas.
Take last week's report from the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal: A study commissioned by Sunoco Logistics says two of its pipeline projects will produce more than 30,000 jobs across Pennsylvania, including as many as 400 permanent positions once the project is complete. The projects are also projected to generate $23 million in personal income tax and contribute $4.2 billion to the state’s economy.
The pipeline project is just one isolated example:
- Dura-Bond’s Steelton plant “plans to add 150 jobs after being awarded a contract to produce $400 million worth of pipeline for the 540-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina,” according to PennLive. The work at the Dauphin County facility is expected to extend through March 2017.
- Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook Industrial Complex — an 800-acre energy hub for the processing, storage and export of natural gas products — continues to expand and add jobs as Delaware County officials work to identify additional business opportunities for it, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sunoco Logistics’ pipelines serve the complex.
- New Jersey’s largest gas and electric utility will decrease the typical residential gas bill by 31 percent in February and March, according to NorthJersey.com. Public Service Electric & Gas “has repeatedly cut the cost of gas to its lowest rate in 14 years as a result of low-cost gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” the website said.
A new tax on Marcellus Shale drilling could put at risk these jobs and countless future projects. The economic benefits from a revived natural gas industry are impressive. Marcellus Shale counties saw more than double the employment growth of non-Marcellus counties last year. While government programs continue to hand out individual grants and loans, they can't compare to the industry's track record of improving employment for entire counties with zero cost to taxpayers. Government programs simply pale in comparison to the revitalization spurred by natural gas.
Residents continued their exodus from Pennsylvania in 2014.
The latest Census population estimates, released last month, show that Pennsylvania gained 5,913 in total population between July 2013 and July 2014. This increase was driven by natural causes—13,400 more births than deaths—and international migration (a net of 29,000).
However, on the negative side, the state lost 31,400 residents to other states in net domestic migration. Only New York, Illinois, New Jersey and California lost more.
United Van Lines data supports this, putting Pennsylvania among the top 10 "outbound states" (again, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois top the list).
But it's part of a larger trend as well. State residents have been fleeing from high tax states to lower tax states. Indeed, while a net loser on the whole, Pennsylvania has gained population from residents fleeing higher-taxed New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.
That residents "vote with their feet" must be considered in any discussion of increasing Pennsylvania's tax burden.
Pennsylvania is the 27th freest state in America according to the Fraser Institute's annual Economic Freedom of North America report, which is hardly news to be celebrating.
States were ranked based on their size of government, level of taxation and labor market restrictions. Texas and South Dakota topped the US list, while Maine ranked last.
Why is economic freedom important? Higher levels of economic freedom directly correspond with more job opportunities and a higher standard of living.
According to the study, the most-free states averaged $55,000 per-capita in 2012 gross domestic product compared to roughly $48,000 for the least-free states. In other words, more economic freedom translated to a $7,000 boost in income per person.
When you consider the entire continent, Pennsylvania ties for the 30th freest state or province. Texas is the only US state to make the top five (the rest are Canadian provinces). Over the past decade, economic freedom has declined in both the United States and Canada, but the decline has been more gradual in Canada.
If Governor-elect Wolf and the new state legislature truly seek a fresh start for the commonwealth, they must take steps to restore economic freedom.
The war on coal will be a catastrophe for consumers, according to a new analysis of energy prices under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
According to an Energy Ventures Analysis report, combined annual gas and electricity bills in Pennsylvania will increase by more than $1,000, or 46 percent by 2020 compared to 2012. Industrial power rates alone will increase by 62 percent.
The November report—"Energy Market Impacts of Recent Federal Regulations on the Electric Power Sector"—says that Pennsylvania is among five states that "would bear the greatest increases in annual residential power bills." The others are Texas, Mississippi, Maryland and Rhode Island.
Commissioned by Peabody Energy, a St. Louis-based coal company, the report calculates state-by-state effects of a number of EPA regulations, including the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Nationally, gas and electricity costs for all customers will increase by $284 billion, or 60 percent, says Energy Ventures.
The increase will result "in large part due to an almost 135 percent increase in the wholesale price of natural gas" as EPA regulations force coal out of use and drive up the demand for gas, says the report.
Numerous business groups and politicians are objecting to the Clean Power Plan, including Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator, Bob Casey, who says that the proposed rule for CO2 emissions, "imposes a disproportionate and unfair burden on Pennsylvania." And the Supreme Court recently announced it will review the regulations in the spring.
Energy Ventures also takes into account the economic effect of rules recently implemented to regulate ozone and particulate matter, the interstate transport of air pollution, mercury, and haze in public parks.
"Our analysis is the first to fully examine the combined economic impacts of the EPA's long list of proposed and finalized regulations on the electric power industry," says Seth Schwartz, Energy Ventures president. The Clean Power Plan is based on flawed assumptions, he says.
From skyrocketing energy bills to killing green jobs to raising manufacturers' cost, the EPA’s actions are harming all Pennsylvanians.
Last week two Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) administrative law judges recommended against legalizing the popular transportation service Uber in Allegheny County. The reason? The company, "is not committed to operating safely and legally."
Why do they claim Uber is putting public safety at risk? The company refused to provide numbers on how many trips it provided while under a July cease-and-desist order.
It's no surprise ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are in a tussle with the state bureaucracy. Entrenched special interests, in this case taxicab companies, regularly use government to exclude new competitors. Think about state Certificate of Need laws that require doctors to seek government permission to purchase a new MRI scanner. Or professional licensing laws that require hair braiders to accrue 300 hours of training.
In this case, it's clear the opposition consists mainly of Uber's competitors. Support for ride-share companies is bipartisan. Both Governor Tom Corbett and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto have expressed their support for ride-sharing companies.
The media agrees the PUC’s position is unreasonable. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial describes Uber as "a highly innovative ride-share service that people in the Pittsburgh area are clamoring for after years of shabby and sometimes non-existent taxi service."
It’s time for the PUC to stop obstructing consumers' wishes and let ride-sharing flourish. Given the PUC's outdated regulations, there are several pieces of legislation to change the law to let ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and others continue to meet the needs of consumers.
Lawmakers across the country have promoted specific, targeted tax breaks that encourage businesses to invest in their state. According to a recent study, these incentive programs are ineffective at promoting widespread economic benefits, despite being advantageous for certain firms and industries.
The study, published by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), examines "the use of public policy to benefit a specific industry, firm, or individual, as opposed to setting broad and generally applicable rules and policies that apply to society as a whole." These include targeted tax breaks or cash subsidies for select firms, as well as preferential tax treatment for firms located in a given geographic area.
ALEC finds that while this type of tax favoritism is not illegal, these programs stunt a state’s potential growth. Tax carve outs, while helping ease the tax burden for select businesses, create an uneven playing field on the whole.
When select businesses are exempt from the standard tax rate, the tax base decreases. ALEC notes that "with a smaller revenue base, states must continually raise tax rates to get the desired amount of revenue." Overall, this results in most businesses paying higher taxes, as they are forced to subsidize the lower tax burden of firms receiving preferential treatment.
posted by EMMA CRISCI | 05:00 PM | Comments
A recent Mercatus Center study provides new evidence that higher state taxes correlate with reduced state economic growth.
Pavel A. Yakovlev, a professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and member of the Commonwealth Foundation Council of Scholars, found higher taxes lead to reduced gross state product (GSP), reduced per-capita income, fewer new businesses, and less immigration.
A one percent average tax rate increase correlates with a 1.9 percent decrease in the GSP growth rate. When states have high taxes and more spending, they experience slower economic growth. This is no secret in Pennsylvania. As the Commonwealth’s taxing and spending increased from 1970 to 2012, economic growth lagged behind the national average.
A one percent increase in a state’s average tax rate correlates with a .07 percent decrease in per capita income. When taxes increase, extra costs are incurred, leading to layoffs and pay cuts.
A one percent increase in personal income tax progressivity correlates with a 1.2 percent decrease in the number of new firms in the state. Firms are more likely to leave or choose not to locate in a state where success dictates a higher tax burden.
As personal state income tax rates increase, immigration rates decrease. Income taxes—or lack thereof—play a role in where Americans choose to live. Four of the nine states with no income tax (Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, Washington) have the highest population growth rates in the nation.
Yakovlev's study certainly comes as sobering news to high tax states across the country, including Pennsylvania. But the upside is a low-tax policy agenda can jump-start economic growth.
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