My Senate Democratic colleagues and I understand that the top priority in many households right now is finding long-term, family sustaining employment. More than a half-million Pennsylvania workers are unemployed. The numbers will only get worse if we fail to act.
It is time to refocus our priorities and do what is right for Pennsylvania’s families, our economy and future.
Pennsylvania is hurting. Putting people back to work should be our number one priority and we have the tools and resources to do that right now.
PA Works Update
Creating jobs is the number one priority. More than a half-million Pennsylvania workers are unemployed. Many others fear the loss of their jobs. Unemployment is worsening. The rate reached 8.2 percent in August, an increase of .4 percent over the last month.
Earlier this year, Senate Democrats offered a comprehensive job creation package, “PA Works.” Now we’ve refreshed our PA Works plan to front-load public infrastructure investments and retool initiatives to stimulate the economy and create jobs now.
Our PA Works Now plan begins with significant investments in our state’s infrastructure. Infrastructure investment creates job immediately and has long-term economic benefits:
- $100 infrastructure investment returns $350 to our economy;
- $1 billion investment in highway and bridge improvements supports 30,000 jobs
- $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in new economic activity;
- $1 billion invested in water and wastewater systems creates 27,000 new jobs and an estimated $82 million in state and local tax revenue.
PA Works Now
The PA Works Now investment strategy would create more than 80,000 new jobs. These jobs would provide an immediate economic stimulus. PA Works Now would make use of state resources, leverage private resources and make critical long term capital investments that would create new opportunities for future growth and development.
Create Pennsylvania Investment Bank
The new Pennsylvania Investment Bank would finance transportation projects, water, sewer and other public utility needs, green building investments, information and communication technology initiatives and other capital needs.
The emphasis would be on tailoring financing to create jobs now. The bank would also be able to leverage private dollars to generate even more jobs in the near term.
The Pennsylvania Investment Bank would be capitalized by:
- Dedicated dollars from an energy extraction tax paid by gas drillers;
- Dedicated surplus state revenues (as we currently do with our Rainy Day fund);
- Creative financing and resource management by the State Treasurer and existing state programs.
$1 Billion in new Water & Sewer Investment
The creation of the Pennsylvania Investment Bank would capitalize $1 billion in new investment for water and sewer infrastructure through PENNVEST and the Commonwealth Finance Authority.
Recapitalize Business in Our Sites Now
New shovel-ready sites could be created by recapitalizing our successful “Business in our Sites” program.
Green Investment Pumps Dollars into the Economy
Public green building investments could be supported for the state, local governments and schools to make new energy efficiency improvements that leverage existing ESCO and High Performance Building investments.
Information and Communication Technology Investments
Capital investments for information and communication technology projects and next generation infrastructure technologies could also be supported, carefully structured to build upon existing private sector commitments.
Over 500,000 Pennsylvanians remain unemployed, and many of these displaced workers have been without jobs for a year or more. Train-to-Work PA is an employer-driven program coordinated through the Workforce Investment Board in the Department of Labor and Industry. Modeled after the Successful “Georgia Works” program, the program would use federal dislocated worker monies to fund on the job training opportunities leading to permanent employment.
Access to Capital for Business Investment
A PA Business Loan Guarantee Program would encourage private lenders to make loans by permitting guarantees of up to 100% of the principal amount of the loan for new investment for borrowers willing to take at least a 10% equity interest in the project.
State programs that finance machinery & equipment and land and building investment are in dire need of capitalization. They are currently only able to lend up to half of their true capacity. Suspending the expected transfer of more than $100 million into the Rainy Day Fund and instead using the funds to recapitalize these loan programs would be a huge stimulus for business investment.
Job Creation Tax Credits
Our current job creation tax credit program has the potential to be a robust job producer with modification. Program modifications should include increasing the credit from $1,000 to $2,000 for a new job or $4,000 when hiring the long term unemployed. For small businesses, a lower job creation threshold should be established while the cap on the total number of credits issued annually should be doubled. Focusing our tax incentives in this way ensures that the tax subsidies actually create new employment.
Our Pennsylvania Home plan would target limited resources to capitalize our State Housing Trust Fund that was created a few years ago, but never funded. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and the State Treasurer have combined resources to provide incentives for first time home buyers periodically throughout the past few decades. These efforts must be restarted.