February Legislative Roundup


Compiled by Debbie Burke

We asked our local and regional legislators:

Where do you believe PA’s economic recovery will first occur: renewed interest in vacant commercial properties, funding for startups, hiring, training, capital improvements, or other?

Sen. David Argall (R, 29)
“As we begin a new year, it is difficult not to reflect on the global economic slowdown and the terrible toll it has taken on Pennsylvania’s state tax revenues – creating a $3.2 billion deficit in last year’s state budget.  However, I am optimistic that the overall job market will begin seeing signs of improvement. It is crucial that we continue to work to create an atmosphere that encourages economic growth and real job growth, thus improving the overall market. One of my top priorities is improving the state’s tax conditions to make Pennsylvania a more attractive place for businesses looking to expand or relocate.  With a statewide unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, we need to create and retain jobs. With too many local residents out of work or working part-time, people continue to struggle.  Recently, Senate Resolution 161, which I sponsored, passed the Senate, 50-0.  This legislation establishes a high-level bipartisan commission to identify cost-saving measures in state government.  With this terrible recession placing greater strains than ever before on many of our family budgets and employers alike, this private-public sector commission will help us identify real savings that will be important to balance future state budgets and avoid unnecessary tax increases, especially on our business community, which can aid in improving the job climate.”

Sen. Lisa Baker (R, 20)
“Cost, credit, and confidence will strongly influence where recovery takes hold. Reports are emerging from different areas of the state about developers and commercial interests taking a renewed look at properties that might be acquired at discount prices. Any pickup in the pace of capital projects, apart from those financed through federal stimulus funding or incentives, will depend in part on how accessible credit becomes. A number of educational institutions and vocational facilities have launched training programs available to individuals who have lost their jobs during the recession.  These programs anticipate where demand for skills will increase, such as energy-related product manufacturing, distribution, and installation jobs.
Because of the record revenue shortfalls that have afflicted the state budget, funding for the various economic development programs Pennsylvania offers will be in shorter supply in the coming years.  We will see the extent to which private lenders and venture capital firms fill the breach. In large part, the answer will be decided by who remains cautious and who becomes confident about the prospects for economic recovery.”

Sen. Lisa M. Boscola (D, 18)
“Pennsylvania’s recovery efforts need to first begin right in our State Capitol.  Another budget cycle is right around the corner and we cannot and should not have another fiscal and political debacle like we did in 2009. While many of us in the General Assembly are unsure what the future holds for the 2010-2011 budget, we need to cut all frivolous spending within our state government so that programs and line items aimed at promoting small businesses will not be victim of future or potential cuts.  Getting small business owners to invest in vacant commercial properties should be a priority, which is starting to happen in some of our smaller urban cores around Pennsylvania.  We need to make sure this is occurring in our rural areas just as frequently.”

Sen. Patrick M. Browne (R, 16)
Not available for comment.

U.S. Rep. Chris Carney (D, 10)
“While it’s our working families who will be the first to know when our economy is in full recovery, there are positive signs that the economic climate is improving. Our economy expanded for the first time in months in November, leading to drops in county unemployment rates throughout Pennsylvania. That expansion wasn’t sustained in December, but I’m confident that we will begin to see continuous job growth in the months to come. Businesses and organizations of all kinds should act boldly during these tough economic times and invest in the resources and personnel that will help them grow over the long-term. Their efforts will not only provide a significant economic boost to our state, but will ensure that they will emerge from this economic climate with a jump-start on their competitors.”

Rep. Mike Carroll (D, 118)
“We should begin to see the first signs of Pennsylvania’s economic recovery in modest capital improvements and a renewed interest in vacant commercial properties. Vacant properties signify blight in our communities instead of potential, and it is important that we stabilize our communities through the redevelopment of abandoned properties. These improvements can revitalize our communities and attract new, more stable investments. Until recently, most towns and cities didn’t plan for the vast changes in technology and the way we do business, and the eventual need for reuse of vacant commercial properties became a major issue.”

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D, PA)
“Economic indicators have shown some positive news, but the surest sign of recovery is job creation. The best way to achieve economic recovery is to continue a two-part strategy that helps laid-off workers provide for themselves and their families and continues to aid the economic recovery by supporting initiatives that help businesses create jobs. That is why I am proposing a job creation tax credit and have been advocating for training, unemployment assistance and health care subsidies for the unemployed.”

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D, 11)
“Our greatest challenge is ensuring that the local workforce is prepared to take advantage of employment opportunities as they become available.  That is why I obtained $700,000 in federal funding for Northampton Community College, much of which will enable the school’s Monroe County campus to expand its curriculum in culinary arts, hospitality, and the health care industry as many jobs in the area cater to Monroe County’s expanding resort industry, Allied Services, and local hospitals. It will also enable the school to create more biotechnology labs which will help prepare students to work for Sanofi Pasteur’s facility in Monroe County.   The school also has continuing education programs, and I encourage residents to take advantage of them.”

Rep. Sandra Major (R, 111)
“As a diverse economic state, Pennsylvanians would be best served by a broad-based recovery. For example, I was encouraged by the recent announcement that the state has instituted a $1.2 billion mortgage program that will help more than 11,000 homebuyers with affordable loans. A housing recovery benefits a wide variety of economic sectors. I will continue to promote policies that encourage economic growth, especially in the private sector.”

Rep. Keith McCall (D, 122)
“With the recent good news about the jobless numbers in Pennsylvania decreasing and the continued growth of the greater Pocono region I think the recovery has already begun. The key to kicking the recovery into high gear will continue to be the investments in job training we’re making at the state level and the dedicated support I will always fight for to help our Community Colleges. There is no better resource for job training than our Community Colleges – they work with employers to make sure that students are trained for high-tech, high-wage jobs. This well-trained workforce is going to be the key to Pennsylvania leading the way toward a brighter economic future.”

Sen. Robert J. Mellow (D, 22)
“There are indications that Pennsylvania’s recovery has already started to materialize in at least a few different areas. A number of recent initiatives have prompted this to happen.   Passage of table games legislation has spurred casinos and community colleges to partner for training in order to fill the more than 10,000 well-paying jobs — many of which are expected to be available by summer.   Over the summer, two state funding authorities infused more than $840 million in grants and loans to repair aged water infrastructure which, in turn, has created an incredible need for manpower and demand for construction workers. A 2009 report of the Clean Water Council found that such projects have an impact in Pennsylvania, translating to more than 20,000 jobs per $1 billion investment, not even taking into consideration the economic sectors other than construction. Nationwide, government funding has started to move through banks into the real estate sector, which should continue in 2010, spurring a noticeable increase in investment activity and growth. There was also a noteworthy jump in temporary hiring in the most recent jobs report, continuing a steady climb which began over the summer. It is typical for companies to bring on temporary workers before adding permanent ones, so using history as a guide, this will bode well for job-seekers in the months to come.”

Sen. Raphael J. Musto (D, 14)
“I believe that there are many parts to an economic recovery and investing in vacant commercial properties and making capital investments can certainly help to lead the way.  Pennsylvania has always been a leader in developing abandoned industrial and commercial sites. I think we can build on our existing programs to encourage even more development of vacant properties.  The state is also making tremendous investments in its water and sewer infrastructure and we should soon be seeing the economic and environmental benefits of these investments.”

Rep. Mike Peifer (R, 139)
“In the near future, I believe the economy will remain on relatively unstable ground.  Businesses will continue to monitor their spending based upon sale orders.  Typically, businesses first spend on technology advances which improve sales, productivity and efficiency of general operations.  Technology advances remain important to compete in a global economy.”

Rep. Mario M. Scavello (R, 176)
“I will continue to fight against the tolling of I-80, but the possibility that Interstate 80 will become a toll road is still a looming question mark making decisions to locate in the Poconos more difficult.  I think it’s going to be tough to attract new businesses to such locations as the Roadway brownfields site, and thus replace the jobs that were lost when that facility closed.  A toll-free transportation network to attract new businesses to these already developed sites is essential. These sites are shovel-ready and adaptable, but until this tolling issue is put to rest, the possibility of creating a large number of jobs is in limbo.”

Rep. John J. Siptroth (D, 189)
“Rehiring and hiring are the first indicators that the economy is recovering. Even though there have been some indications the economy is rebounding, especially with reports of increased consumer spending during the holidays, employers are still being cautious when it comes to hiring. In some cases, they are paying overtime rather than hiring new workers. This helps companies control costs. The next indication of an economic recovery may be capital improvements that have been put on hold until businesses wait for an economic recovery. Displaced workers have been and will continue to be offered job training in fields that have opportunity for employment, such as the health-care industry. State funding for start-up businesses will unfortunately be one of the last parts of a recovery because the state is struggling to pay for programs that are required by law.”

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (D, PA)
Not available for comment.

Rep. Edward G. Staback (D, 115)
Not available for comment.