happy family in the park

Twenty-three policies
that will help
Pennsylvanians
prosper


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.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education; Commonwealth Foundation.

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.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education

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.

Unleash a More Prosperous Pennsylvania

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.

Sources: Pennsylvania Office of the Budget, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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.

Source: Tax Foundation.

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.

Source: Mercatus Center

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.

Source: OpenData PA, Pennsylvania Office of the Budget.

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.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
*based on occupancy of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center

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.

Source: Commonwealth Foundation.

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.

Source: Commonwealth Foundation.

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.

Sources: The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards, and the Pa. Department of State, Campaign Finance Database.
*Most 2021 dues spending not available

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.

Source: Commonwealth Foundation.

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.

Source: Commonwealth Foundation.

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.

Source: Teacher Freedom.

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.

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Education

Pa. House Passes Lifeline Scholarship Bill

  • April 27, 2022

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 Release

Read More: Pa. House Passes Lifeline Scholarship Bill

Prosperity

The PLCB’s Boondoggles

  • March 7, 2022

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 Sheet

Read More: The PLCB’s Boondoggles

Prosperity

Taxpayer Protection Act: Facts & Myths

  • March 3, 2022

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 Sheet

Read More: Taxpayer Protection Act: Facts & Myths

Fairness

Why Pennsylvania Needs Wisconsin-Style Government Union Reform

  • Elizabeth Stelle, Nathan Benefield
  • February 24, 2022

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…

Report

Read More: Why Pennsylvania Needs Wisconsin-Style Government Union Reform

Prosperity

Wolf’s RGGI fixation will slow Pennsylvania’s recovery

  • Gordon Tomb
  • February 17, 2022

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 Hit

Read More: Wolf’s RGGI fixation will slow Pennsylvania’s recovery

Education

Opportunity Unleashed

  • Marc LeBlond, Stefanie Mason
  • February 15, 2022

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…

Backgrounder

Read More: Opportunity Unleashed

Prosperity

Pennsylvania’s Population Problems

  • February 8, 2022

The Problem New data[1] 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 Sheet

Read More: Pennsylvania’s Population Problems

Prosperity

How Government Overspending Hurts Pennsylvania Families

  • Andrew Holman, Nathan Benefield
  • January 31, 2022

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…

Backgrounder

Read More: How Government Overspending Hurts Pennsylvania Families

Criminal Justice Reform

Why Pennsylvania Needs Probation Reform

  • Brandon Van Dyck
  • December 15, 2021

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.

Backgrounder

Read More: Why Pennsylvania Needs Probation Reform

Prosperity

Top Unemployment Compensation Reforms for Pennsylvania

  • November 3, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: Top Unemployment Compensation Reforms for Pennsylvania

Education Landscape in PA

  • July 14, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: Education Landscape in PA

Education

School Funding Myth Busters

  • Colleen Hroncich
  • June 23, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: School Funding Myth Busters

Education

Excellence in Education for All Act Summary

  • Colleen Hroncich
  • June 17, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: Excellence in Education for All Act Summary

The Untapped Potential of Expanded Tax Credit Scholarships

  • Marc LeBlond
  • June 14, 2021

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…

Report

Read More: The Untapped Potential of Expanded Tax Credit Scholarships

Steps to Enhance Election Integrity

  • June 2, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: Steps to Enhance Election Integrity

State Budget

Clear the Red Tape to Rebuild a Stronger Pennsylvania

  • Tirzah Duren
  • April 27, 2021

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 Sheet

Read More: Clear the Red Tape to Rebuild a Stronger Pennsylvania

Public Sector Union 2020 Election Spending

  • Jessica Barnett
  • March 18, 2021

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.

Backgrounder

Read More: Public Sector Union 2020 Election Spending

Regulation

Help Restaurants by Privatizing the PLCB

  • Elizabeth Stelle
  • October 26, 2020

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 Sheet

Read More: Help Restaurants by Privatizing the PLCB

Fairness

Protecting the Rights of Pennsylvania Public Employees

  • October 3, 2020

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…

Backgrounder

Read More: Protecting the Rights of Pennsylvania Public Employees