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Politics: At the table or on the menu?

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Posted by: Bernie Dagenais on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 4:00:00 pm

A delegation from The Main Line Chamber of Commerce was in Harrisburg this week as part of a group of 100 chamber of commerce executives and volunteers from across the commonwealth who sought to better understand the direction in which our state is moving.

Businesses are fortunate to have representatives from the dual hosts of the event, the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. During a year in which there is certain to be turnover of elected officials, in part due to decisions by some not to run for re-election, it’s important to keep the concerns of business and our region’s nonprofits top of mind in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.

It’s welcome news that the budget due by July 1 appears to be on track, with no tax increases and some expected upticks in education funding, though not at the rate some advocates would like to see. Legislation that sets out to bring greater safety to schools is a major topic, as is the November election.

In past years, business priorities have included expansion of transportation funding to adequately care for our roads, bridges and transit, and pension reform to ensure that benefits don’t eat up an ever-growing percentage of our education spending. Both topics bear watching as transportation funds have been diverted to other uses and the pension reform plan approved two years ago was timid at best.

The fact is, we live in a slow-growth state that lags in job creation and has so far lacked the political will to change the equation in any sort of transformational way.

Efforts to direct funding to more effectively prepare employees for available jobs are on the agenda, along with a compelling set of bills designed to better utilize career and technical education.

Effectively engaging employers with talent is essential to our region’s future as a strong jobs center.

We arrived in Harrisburg as Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner resigned his Senate seat to concentrate on unseating Democrat Tom Wolf. Wagner, who runs a York County trash business, spoke to the group about his contention that the problem in Harrisburg is not about a shortage of revenue, but rather out-of-control spending that he is prepared to expose and reverse.

The electorate will speak on Nov. 6. Regardless of the outcome, we will seek to keep business issues, and issues of particular interest to Southeastern Pennsylvania top of mind.  Our five county region generates 36 percent of total General Fund revenues, with businesses providing 41 percent of the state’s economic activity and private business payroll taxes. Yet, our region is poorly represented among the powerbroker seats in the General Assembly. This too bears watching.

Our position is simple. We support policies that enhance competitiveness rather than inhibit job and wealth creation. It’s easier to demonize business when there’s a lack of familiarity with leaders who provide jobs, pay taxes and invest in philanthropy. Our collaborations with other chambers, in part through a bipartisan political action committee, ensures we know and are known by our elected officials. When the time comes to stand for business, we can be assured we won’t be alone.

To read the entire June issue of the Main Line Business Monthly please click here

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