Steve Bloom: Suggestions for Governor Wolf

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The founders envisioned government serving as a thorough reflection of its citizens. Our state and federal constitutions were designed to prevent any person or group of people from dominating, so every citizen could have a voice.

In last month’s elections, the citizens of Pennsylvania spoke to elect a Democratic chief executive and an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature.

While this partisan divide between counterbalanced branches of government may spark expectations of political stalemates and paralysis, it doesn’t have to be that way. Divided government need not be dysfunctional government.

Elected officials from both sides of the aisle share common aspirations of making Pennsylvania the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Gov.elect Tom Wolf’s voter registration card may list a party affiliation differing from most of my legislative colleagues, but he has already expressed his desire to bridge the gap, stating in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, that he is "…willing to work with people who are willing to work with [him] in good will."

In that spirit of good will, as a newly re-elected Republican legislator, I respectfully suggest five practical initiatives upon which the incoming governor may find common ground with our enhanced legislative majority.

respectfully suggest five practical initiatives upon which the incoming governor may find common ground with our enhanced legislative majority.
First, we can reform government itself. Changing "business as usual" in Harrisburg by making government more accountable to taxpayers is in everyone’s best interest.

I commend the governor-elect for moving swiftly to restrict those under his jurisdiction from accepting inappropriate gifts with his "Just Say No Thank You" policy.

The House recently imposed its own similar rules on members, and our bipartisan, bicameral Government Reform Caucus has championed a number of bills which, if enacted, would give such rules the force of law throughout state government.

Second, poll after poll shows broad statewide support for ending Pennsylvania’s troubled government-run liquor monopoly.

Last session, the House thoroughly vetted and passed legislation that would have finally eliminated our outmoded state store system.

Ending this costly taxpayer-owned bureaucratic throwback to the days of Prohibition will free up new revenues to ease the mounting fiscal pressure on next year’s budget, potentially funding property tax relief and beneficial educational investments.

Third, "prevailing wage" reform is another realistic means of creating budgetary flexibility to positively impact priorities such as school funding.

The Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 mandates artificially high costs for work on taxpayer-funded construction projects (including schools), even when qualified contractors can do the same work for lower market rates.

Repeal or reform of prevailing wage laws would empower school districts and local governments to reduce costs, control property taxes and get more bang for every taxpayer buck invested in construction.

Fourth, as a business owner himself, I’m sure the governor-elect can attest to the complexity of our state Tax Code and how burdensome it can be for our businesses, both large and small. Modernizing Pennsylvania’s tax structures would enable our job creators to compete on a level playing field and focus on rebuilding productive resources, growing the jobs we need.

In the upcoming session, I will join several colleagues in reintroducing the Small Business Tax Fairness Package, a set of bills that would do just that, replacing unnecessarily complicated tax obstacles with fairness and simplicity. Additionally, there is new Majority Leader Dave Reed’s comprehensive plan to close the notorious Delaware Loophole and phase-down Pennsylvania’s oppressively high corporate net income tax, significantly reforming the state’s overall tax climate. That legislation received bipartisan support when it passed the House last session.

Fifth, and perhaps most urgent, is public pension reform. Pennsylvania’s state and school employee pension systems are seriously underfunded. The underlying problems were bipartisan in origin, with both Democratic and Republican officials at fault for making unwise choices.

While Gov.-elect Wolf has been unwilling to call the situation a "pension crisis," I hope we can respectfully agree that our state’s growing $50 billion unfunded pension liability is, at the very least, a "pressing challenge."

Together, we now face a closing window of opportunity for timely action to protect the promises made and relieve the crushing financial burden on our schools and taxpayers.

While I cannot speak for my colleagues, I humbly offer that these five initiatives – government reform, liquor reform, prevailing wage reform, business tax reform and pension reform – can serve the governor-elect as a positive, practical, reasonable, bipartisan agenda for the citizens of Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Stephen Bloom, a Republican, represents the Carlisle-based 199th House District.