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Progress over politics in Pennsylvania

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Posted by: Bernie Dagenais on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 2:00:00 pm

Somewhere in between the divisive political views that grip our national and state elected bodies is a path to better jobs for our citizens and residents. This path calls for training that better meets the needs of employers. It includes education that is adequately funded and accountable for results. It calls for a tax policy that is fair and competitive, while funding vital programs and investing in economic development initiatives that keep our nation on the edge of innovation.

With the right facts in hand, these issues can and should transcend party.

The Pennsylvania Legislature passed a nearly $34 billion budget last month that was described privately this week by one key legislator as incremental. He didn’t mean that as a compliment. Thanks in part to a strengthening revenue picture and without new taxes, there were increases in funding for education, including investment in career and technical schools, community colleges and early-childhood education. However, hotly debated issues involving bringing more funding equity to schools and increasing the minimum wage stalled.  A direct subsidy program for the poor was eliminated, over the staunch objections of Democrats, who are in the minority in both the House and Senate.

The divide is not just by party, but by region, with legislators from Republican-leaning counties seeing Greater Philadelphia differently than their counterparts in Southeastern Pennsylvania. When The Main Line Chamber of Commerce looks to the capital of Harrisburg, we ask what can be agreed upon that will benefit our region and our state. We believe interests are aligned and the right facts bring clarity. We seek to accurately convey information about the issues facing our member companies and communities. 

We continue to seek greater understanding of PAsmart, Gov. Wolf’s initiative to help prepare Pennsylvania workers for the jobs that are in greatest demand. The now $40 million program invests in technology and science education. Employer interaction will be key.

The state faces big questions, relating to providing a better education for our children, the evolution of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and how to ensure that funds being diverted from addressing roads, bridges and public transit needs get directed to their intended use.

Supporting the continuation of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians is a key focus for your Chamber in 2019-2020. We have weighed in to support added funding for Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which has proven it can leverage state dollars to help secure private investment and the growth of innovative companies.

The Chamber recently hosted Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, a Lehigh Valley Republican who outlined perspectives that indicated a thoughtful and open mind. We are meeting newly elected Democrats and finding common ground.

Despite all that divides our state elected officials, finding areas of agreement benefits everyone. We are, after all, a Commonwealth.

Click here to read the July issue of the newsletter.

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