Pennsylvania Policies Increasingly out of Touch

Pennsylvania Policies Increasingly out of Touch

Notwithstanding its incredibly good fortune in being the home of vast natural gas deposits that are propelling much of the economic growth being experienced currently, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is losing its ability to compete for capital and jobs. The state has antiquated and seriously inadequate laws regarding property assessments, it faces enormous future government spending to keep its pension promises to teachers and state employees, it is a perennial leader among the states in teacher strikes, it is one of two states that still owns liquor stores, one of the state’s two largest transit agencies is in undeclared bankruptcy, and its bridges and roads are ranked among the worst in the nation.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Indiana have passed legislation that dramatically curtails the power of unions and their ability to drive jobs away and raise the cost of government. Neither state allows teacher strikes and in the case of Indiana has greatly expanded a voucher program to allow students choices other than failing public schools. Two things Pennsylvania has notably been unable to get done or in the case of banning teacher strikes has not come close to doing.

So, while we can congratulate ourselves for Marcellus related jobs and incomes gains and laud the powerful growth in education and health employment, it must be remembered that the extent of the state’s dependence on education and health for jobs cannot be the basis for sustained, long term economic health.

Pennsylvania must address the pension crisis, the teacher and transit worker right to strike, the state of transportation infrastructure and continue its recent efforts to contain the spending that grew so profusely under the previous administration. And if it really wants to get bold, it could eliminate the dues withholding for public sector employees and begin to talk seriously about doing with prevailing wage requirements on public construction projects. But in a state that cannot even get itself out of the liquor selling business, the much desired reforms enumerated here are probably best regarded as fantasies.