Pennsylvania has divided state government with a Democrat in the governor’s office and Republicans in control of the state legislature. That divide was on full display this week as the GOP unveiled a plan to lock in the economic gains of the past two years, while Governor Tom Wolf proposed a radical environmental agenda that would slam the state’s economy into reverse.
First the good news: as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts of 2017, and the Trump Administration’s efforts to reduce federal regulations, Pennsylvania’s economy is booming. Recent statistics from the state Department of Labor and Industry show a record low unemployment rate of 3.9% and continued job growth.
The national economy is so strong this expansion is happening in Penn’s Woods despite the fact that every survey of state-by-state competitiveness shows our business climate to be near the bottom of the list. In an effort to change that – and ensure the economic good times continue – House Speaker Michael Turzai this week announced the Energize PA initiative which is a “pro-growth, pro-jobs legislative package.”
The package of bills is designed to capitalize on the fact that energy production is one of the fastest growing segments of our state’s economy. It will encourage manufacturing expansion while reducing the regulatory burden and shorten the permitting process.
Among the proposals is the creation of Keystone Energy Enhancement Zones that would make businesses eligible for state and local tax exemptions and credits, institution of a tax credit for industries using Pennsylvania methane in their production process, creation of a registry of abandon manufacturing sites that will list properties available for development, and make low-cost gas energy more available to residents and to manufacturers.
Additionally, the Energize PA plan would create an independent commission that would review and propose changes to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) permitting processes with an eye toward streamlining those procedures thus allowing companies to adapt more quickly and improve their economic competitiveness.
The proposals are environmentally sound as they will encourage the clean-up of brownfield sites and significantly reduce carbon emissions helping Pennsylvania meet Clean Power Plan goals ahead of schedule and without government interference.
While Republicans propose tried and true measures to expand the state’s economy and foster the creation of new, family-sustaining jobs, Governor Tom Wolf uncorked his “Climate Action Plan,” a toxic stew of radical environmental goals which taken together form a blueprint for economic disaster.
Wolf is embroiling Pennsylvania in the Climate Change Alliance, a loose confederation of states working to undercut President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. That now discredited agreement placed unrealistic goals and restrictions on so-called “greenhouse gas emissions” to combat the Left’s belief that those emissions are somehow contributing to global climate change.
Knowing his radical plan could not win approval in the legislature, Governor Wolf has decided to try and advance his environmental agenda through regulation and the deep state bureaucracy. Essentially a Green New Deal for Pennsylvania, the goal is to eventually completely eliminate CO2 emissions.
Not only is that unrealistic, it is undesirable and unnecessary. The governor’s plan would cripple the economy and devastate family budgets as it would require the elimination of all carbon-based fuels – meaning no gas-powered cars or trucks, no home heating by natural gas or oil, nor the manufacture of the thousands of plastic items using carbon bi-products.
Having worked itself into frenzy over climate change, and the fact President Trump does not buy into its dire predictions, the Left has become even more radicalized. Governor Wolf is fully under their sway. In addition to the danger his proposals pose to the economy and our way of life, his efforts to end-run the legislative process are alarming.
These two visions of Pennsylvania’s future will collide in coming months as legislative Republicans seek to enact their Energize PA plan, while simultaneously preventing the governor from crushing the economic expansion by doing through regulation what he cannot achieve through legislation.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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