Yudichak: Growth Will Fuel Pa.’s Future
SUGARLOAF TWP. — Pennsylvania’s current economic growth will fuel “historic” upgrades to the state’s infrastructure, as well as workforce development, a state senator says.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp., told a Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Breakfast Crowd at the Valley Country Club on Thursday morning Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed natural gas severance tax will fund his $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania program, which is aimed at improving technology, development, and infrastructure. This would include downstream manufacturing, business development and energy infrastructure, and transportation capital projects.
“It’s not about sending money to the general fund, it is about sending money to every municipality, every county in Pennsylvania,” Yudichak said of the proposed severance tax. “It’s also about getting money to communities like Hazleton, who need money to work on their stormwater management system, sewage system, on their roads and bridges — every bit of infrastructure in Pennsylvania we have deferred maintenance on. There is not a community that does not have a flood control project, a sewer project, a road project, that they simply do not have the local revenue to invest. It is harder and harder for the Commonwealth to be a part in those public infrastructure investments. We need to invest in those critical infrastructure projects that set the stage for economic growth.”
Yudichak’s take on the governor’s proposal is quite different than that of a colleague.
Sen. John Gordner, R-27, Berwick, told the same group three weeks ago with the severance tax, the state’s tax climate will discourage economic growth.
But Yudichak said Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state that does not have a severance tax. The impact fee that is now charged is deceiving, he said.
“The impact fee is based only on a well drilled,” he said. “The enormous production and volume of natural gas produced in Pennsylvania is not taxed. Technology in the industry is growing in leaps and bounds so where one well was drilled, now they have 12, 15 arms coming out of that well, Pennsylvania businesses and taxpayers are losing out.”
The senator also pointed out 80 percent of severance tax in Restore Pennsylvania will be paid by consumers outside Pennsylvania.
Yudichak talked about the significance of Wolf signing an executive order to create a workforce development command center.
“I thought it was important for the governor to focus this year’s budget address on what I think is going to be the pressing challenge facing the Chamber of Commerce, CAN DO and all of us engaged in economic development in Pennsylvania — building the best workforce in the nation and the world,” he said. “Labor and industry are going to work together to build the world’s best workforce right here in Pennsylvania. You will see some changes in workforce development in Pennsylvania by June.”
Yudichak said the governor’s budget also increases funding by $10 million in career and technical education.
“We need to continue to do that what labor and industry has been trying to do over the last few years, form industry partnerships, so those career and technical schools are dealing directly with those industries that are going to be looking for those skilled workers,” he said.
Yudichak said he favors an increase in the minimum wage, but maybe not the $12 per hour Wolf wants to institute this year.
“If it were $12, 40,000 families in my constituency would get a pay raise,” he said. “It’s been a decade since Pennsylvania raised it. At $7.25, we are lower than all of our neighboring states. There’s a lot of ground to cover in terms of impact on seasonal employees, tip wages, and small businesses. “(Senate Majority Leader) Jake Corman indicated we need to be open-minded to a minimum wage increase. They may not be sold on $12, but maybe a number like $10 or $9.50. That entry-point wage is going up because of the competition for the workforce is driving up that wage. What the right number is is what we are going to work on over the next few months.”
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