Republicans Speak Out on Minimum Wage Increases, Severance Tax at Clarion Chamber’s Legislative Breakfast

| April 14, 2018

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry welcomed speaker Jennifer Reis, Manager of Government Affairs of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, at their Spring Legislative Breakfast on Friday morning.

A diverse group of local businesspeople and elected officials, including Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Hutchinson and Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius, Ed Heasley, and Ted Tharan, gathered to enjoy breakfast and a presentation focused on statewide legislation and other issues both in and out of favor with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, as Speaker Jennifer Reis gave an overview of the State Chamber’s legislative agenda and other current projects.

Reis noted that although state revenue currently looks promising, and the Wolf Administration is expecting to finish out this year with a slight surplus, and the governor’s budget address for the 2018-19 fiscal year does not include any broad-based tax increases, the Wolf Administration is still pushing for a severance tax on natural gas, which the PA Chamber of Business and Industry does not support.

“We think a severance tax is a policy that’s just not smart business for Pennsylvania, and that it will negatively impact an industry that has brought lots of economic growth and lots of jobs to the Commonwealth,” Reis said.

Pennsylvania’s pension liability was another topic addressed, as Reis noted the state is currently facing $74 billion unfunded pension liability. The PA Chamber believes that more needs to be done to address the liability to put the state on a more stable financial ground.

The Wolf Administration’s call for a minimum wage increase was also addressed as an item the PA Chamber does not support.

According to Reis, “We think that there are several unintended consequences to mandated wage increases and that those types of mandates particularly impact the small business community.”

Moving beyond legislative issues, Reis also talked about the PA Chamber’s efforts toward workforce development, calling it a “top priority” and a “cornerstone” of the Chamber’s mission.

“We have a job skills gap here in Pennsylvania, and we’ve heard from our members that they are still finding it difficult to find employees to fill open positions who have the skills, training, and education that are needed to fill those positions. We’ve really made an effort the past couple of years to really focus on workforce development and try to put into effect some resources and tools that may help employers, that may help students, that may help workers also to connect with one another and to try to close that skills gap,” Reis said.

The Start the Conversation Here initiative, created by the Pennsylvania Chamber Educational Foundation, is a campaign aimed at addressing the skills gap in Pennsylvania. As a part of the initiative, the Chamber has also partnered with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to provide scholarships to Pennsylvania students who agree to continue their education in a Pennsylvania career or technical school.

Reis wrapped up her presentation with a reminder of the original goal of the chambers of commerce saying “that’s the foundation of the community, that’s where economic growth can happen, and that’s where partnerships between the business community can happen.”

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