that will help
America’s story began in Pennsylvania, but our state has fallen behind. Families are leaving for better jobs, educational opportunities, and quality of life in other states. But in 2023, policymakers can usher in a new era of prosperity for Pennsylvania.
Building on the fiscal responsibility of recent years, here are 23 policy ideas that provide educational opportunities for our children, protect families’ paychecks, help Pennsylvania businesses compete, and respect our workers.
By championing these policies at the start of a new administration, lawmakers can unleash Pennsylvania’s potential to lead the nation and usher in a new era of prosperity for future generations.
1 – Expansion of Tax Credit Scholarships
The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) provide a lifeline for thousands of low-income and middle-income Pennsylvania students. Funding for these scholarships comes from businesses that receive a tax credit when they donate. In 2019–20, arbitrary program caps denied over 75,000 K–12 student applications and turned away $116 million in business donations. Pennsylvania should implement an escalator that allows credits to automatically grow in proportion to student needs.
2 – Education Opportunity Accounts
Education Opportunity Accounts (EOAs) are restricted-use accounts that empower families by providing them with flexible funds for educational use. The state deposits a portion of the per-pupil education funding into accounts families can use for approved educational expenses, like tuition, tutoring, and special education services. School districts would no longer receive the student’s portion of per-pupil state education funding but would retain all local and federal funding.
3 – Charter School Independent Authorizer
School districts alone have a monopoly on authorizing brick-and-mortar public charter schools, creating an inherent conflict of interest that stifles charter growth. As a result, Philadelphia area charters maintain a vast waiting list of over 40,000 children. Twenty-four states have some form of independent authorizer, whether an independent board, a higher education institution, or a nongovernmental agency.
4 – Report Card for All Public Schools
Already, 16 states, including Florida, apply an A–F grading system to schools. Florida’s scoring system considers state achievement and learning gains in assessment scores, graduation rates, and graduates earning college credit or certifications. Offering a similar A–F letter grade scoring system in Pennsylvania would provide our parents with transparent, easy-to-understand public school rankings and empower them to hold their local schools accountable.
5 – Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA)
Pennsylvania state government has historically overspent in good economic times, requiring tax hikes following recessions. The TPA is a constitutional amendment, based on successful reform in Colorado, that will provide a long-term solution by controlling spending. The TPA limits spending growth to an index based on inflation and population growth to keep government spending in line with taxpayers’ ability to pay.
6 – Replace Corporate Welfare with Business Tax Cuts
Pennsylvania’s business tax climate stifles opportunity and job creation. In addition to having the second-highest corporate net income tax (CNIT) rate in the nation at 9.99 percent, Pennsylvania limits small businesses from carrying forward their losses to offset taxes in future years. Meanwhile, politicians dole out nearly $1 billion annually in corporate welfare handouts. Instead, Pennsylvania should redirect these dollars to reduce the CNIT to 7.29 percent and lower taxes for all businesses, making our state more competitive for investment and jobs.
7 – Reduce Regulatory Red Tape
Pennsylvania imposes roughly 164,000 regulations, which exert a significant drag on the economy. Any regulation costing more than $1 million should require legislative approval. Pennsylvania should also establish an Office of Repealer that would regularly review and initiate the repeal of harmful regulations.
8 – End RGGI Immediately
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a multi-state agreement that seeks to put caps on energy production and charges generators for CO2 emission allowances. This effectively represents a new tax on electricity consumers that leads to lost jobs, and higher energy costs for households and businesses, without significantly impacting emissions.
9 – Welfare Community Engagement Requirements
More than one million healthy adults in Pennsylvania receive SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid benefits. A work, community service, or education requirement in order to maintain benefits can help individual beneficiaries regain independence and boost their incomes. The requirements would apply to healthy, working-age adults (19–64) without children.
10 – Regular Welfare Eligibility Verification
Welfare programs, like Medicaid, base eligibility on income or medical status. The state should verify income, residency, and household composition information twice a year and regularly cross-check death, residency, and wage records.
11 – Human Services Tax Credit
Modeled after the education tax credit programs (EITC and OSTC), this tax credit breaks the government monopoly on social welfare programs by granting businesses and individuals tax credits for donations to approved charitable organizations that provide basic needs such as childcare, medical care, food, clothing, shelter, and job placement.
12 – Expand Scope of Practice
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are highly trained medical professionals and can provide comparable services to a physician in their specialty. In Pennsylvania, NPs can only practice if they enter into expensive collaborative agreements with physicians. Allowing NPs to practice independently, as is done in 24 other states, will increase access to primary care providers.
13 – Unemployment Compensation Benefits
A depleted Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund triggers tax hikes on businesses. By shortening the duration of unemployment benefits in good economic times, Pennsylvania could shore up its depleted trust fund to avoid tax hikes and put people back to work more swiftly.
14 – Defined Contribution Plans
Pennsylvania’s defined benefit pension systems remain seriously underfunded. Switching to 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plans presents less risk to taxpayers and benefits workers, allowing them to change jobs and not worry about losing retirement savings. Additionally, defined contribution plans offer similar levels of retirement income as defined benefit plans.
15 – Privatize Liquor and Wine Sales
The current government-run liquor monopoly is a financial drain and a consumer headache. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) holds a $1.3 billion liability. Moreover, the PLCB constantly loses customers to other nearby states through “border bleed.” A private system would increase choice, convenience, and customer service.
16 – Modernize Election Law
Most Pennsylvania voters believe that the state needs to update its election laws. Measures that make it easy to vote and hard to cheat include voter identification, clear and reasonable voting deadlines, a clean and consistent election administration process, and guardrails around third-party funding of elections.
17 – Juvenile Justice Reform
Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system is quick to institutionalize youth for their first offense, yet research shows community supervision can better reduce the chance of a juvenile committing another crime. Reforming the system to encourage safe diversion for first-time offenders along with supervision options in the community can prevent crime and preserve resources for high-risk offenders.
18 – Continue Addressing Barriers to Employment
Pennsylvanians with a past criminal record face hundreds of collateral consequences and restrictions on finding work and housing after they pay their debt to society. Pennsylvania should continue to reduce or eliminate outmoded licensing laws and restrictions that prevent those with a criminal conviction from obtaining gainful employment.
19 – Paycheck Protection
Paycheck protection would stop government unions from using taxpayer-funded resources to collect money used for politics. Using taxpayer resources to collect political contributions is already illegal for elected officials. Government labor union executives should not have access to this special privilege.
20 – Collective Bargaining Transparency
Collective bargaining agreements with government unions cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Currently, negotiations and preliminary contracts are exempt from the state’s Sunshine Law. Taxpayers deserve “open and public” deliberation before their hard-earned money is spent on government union contracts.
21 – Workers’ Choice
The initial unionization votes by teachers and most other government employees occurred more than 30 years ago. None of the teachers working in our largest school districts had the opportunity to vote on selecting the union representing their interests. Workers deserve to choose who represents them.
22 – Notification of Employee Rights
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision ended mandatory “fair-share fees” for public employees who chose not to join a union. Years later, many public employees remain unaware of their rights. Employees deserve the right to be fully informed when making decisions about union membership.
23 – Freedom to Resign
In Pennsylvania, government union executives benefit from the “maintenance of membership” clause, which limits member resignations to a brief 15-day period at the end of an often-multiyear collective bargaining agreement. This is not fair to workers; an employee should always have the freedom to resign from union membership.
Review our Better PA 2023 polling here!
New Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Demand a New Path Forward Post-Primary
68% say things in Pennsylvania have “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track” More than 8-in-10 respondents support overhauling education, taxes, and employee rights Commonwealth Foundation’s…
Media HitRead More: New Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Demand a New Path Forward Post-Primary
Pa. House Passes Lifeline Scholarship Bill
April 27, 2022, Harrisburg, Pa. — Today, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to offer Lifeline Scholarships to students in underperforming school districts. House Bill 2169, sponsored by Reps.
Press ReleaseRead More: Pa. House Passes Lifeline Scholarship Bill
The PLCB’s Boondoggles
PLCB History In 1933, four days before the end of Prohibition, then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot established the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). Pinchot created the PLCB to fill the regulatory…
Fact SheetRead More: The PLCB’s Boondoggles
Taxpayer Protection Act: Facts & Myths
Summary The Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA) controls the growth of state spending by tying budget increases to the average rate of inflation and population growth. Moreover, the TPA requires a…
Fact SheetRead More: Taxpayer Protection Act: Facts & Myths
Why Pennsylvania Needs Wisconsin-Style Government Union Reform
Key Findings Government unions have enormous political power in Pennsylvania, due to a host of special legal privileges granted in state law.Government union executives use this power to trap government…
ReportRead More: Why Pennsylvania Needs Wisconsin-Style Government Union Reform
Wolf’s RGGI fixation will slow Pennsylvania’s recovery
Originally published at City & State Gov. Tom Wolf’s timing for imposing a new energy tax could hardly be worse. Pennsylvania’s economy is trying to recover from the pandemic’s…
Media HitRead More: Wolf’s RGGI fixation will slow Pennsylvania’s recovery
Key Points In June 2019, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly expanded the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs by a combined $30 million. In the 2019-20…
BackgrounderRead More: Opportunity Unleashed
Pennsylvania’s Population Problems
The Problem New data from the United States Census Bureau shows Pennsylvania’s population problems remain: Pennsylvania’s population decreased by 25,000 from July 2020 to July 2021. Natural population…
Fact SheetRead More: Pennsylvania’s Population Problems
How Government Overspending Hurts Pennsylvania Families
Key Points Excessive government spending and borrowing is causing record-setting inflation and severe supply chain shortages.Voters want fiscal restraint from their government.High taxes and spending are making Pennsylvania uncompetitive, costing…
BackgrounderRead More: How Government Overspending Hurts Pennsylvania Families
Criminal Justice Reform
Why Pennsylvania Needs Probation Reform
Pennsylvania has an overburdened probation system that delivers substandard results. The commonwealth’s recidivism rate is 41 percent—one of the highest in the nation.
BackgrounderRead More: Why Pennsylvania Needs Probation Reform
Top Unemployment Compensation Reforms for Pennsylvania
Overview Pennsylvania should reform its unemployment compensation system to pay down state debt, incentivize hiring, increase labor participation, and minimize fraudulent claims. Reforms should protect unemployment compensation for the individuals…
Fact SheetRead More: Top Unemployment Compensation Reforms for Pennsylvania
Education Landscape in PA￼
Overview There are approximately 1.9 million school-age children in Pennsylvania. Around 75% attend their assigned district school. Nearly 9% attend a charter school and close to 12% attend a private…
Fact SheetRead More: Education Landscape in PA￼
School Funding Myth Busters
In the face of uncertainly due to COVID in 2020, state lawmakers flat-funded education for the 2020–21 school year. Districts also received about $6 billion in additional funding via three…
Fact SheetRead More: School Funding Myth Busters
Excellence in Education for All Act Summary
What is the Excellence in Education for All Act? The Excellence in Education for All Act (Senate Bill 1) is an exciting bill that seeks to ensure more Pennsylvania…
Fact SheetRead More: Excellence in Education for All Act Summary
The Untapped Potential of Expanded Tax Credit Scholarships
This study reviews the most rigorous evidence on school choice and student outcomes in the United States and estimates the economic impacts of expanding access to Pennsylvania’s K-12 tax credit…
ReportRead More: The Untapped Potential of Expanded Tax Credit Scholarships
Steps to Enhance Election Integrity
In 2020, Pennsylvania’s newly amended election law struggled under unprecedented mail-in voting. In addition, last-minute state guidance and judicial decisions skirted state election law, further delaying results and causing confusion.
Fact SheetRead More: Steps to Enhance Election Integrity
Clear the Red Tape to Rebuild a Stronger Pennsylvania
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Wolf repealed regulations to allow our healthcare sector to respond to the evolving crisis. Nonmedical regulatory restrictions—such as permitting cocktails to-go—were also…
Fact SheetRead More: Clear the Red Tape to Rebuild a Stronger Pennsylvania
Public Sector Union 2020 Election Spending
Public sector union political action committees (PAC) spent $16.7 million in Pennsylvania during the 2019–2020 election cycle, principally on behalf of Democratic politicians.
BackgrounderRead More: Public Sector Union 2020 Election Spending
Help Restaurants by Privatizing the PLCB
Clearly, Gov. Wolf looks out of touch—and perhaps he knows it. Last week, following his veto, he released a proposal to waiver license fees collected by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB)…
Fact SheetRead More: Help Restaurants by Privatizing the PLCB
Protecting the Rights of Pennsylvania Public Employees
Key Points Pennsylvania state law grants unions exclusive bargaining rights in government workplaces, makes it difficult for workers to leave their union, and allows taxpayer collection of union political money.Through…
BackgrounderRead More: Protecting the Rights of Pennsylvania Public Employees
Preserving Medicaid: How to Stop Shortchanging Patients and Bankrupting Taxpayers
Pennsylvania is a Medicaid leader in all the wrong ways. Enrollment has skyrocketed beyond population growth, and the state ranks fourth in the share of the state budget consumed by Medicaid.
ReportRead More: Preserving Medicaid: How to Stop Shortchanging Patients and Bankrupting Taxpayers