Pa. business leaders: Shapiro’s budget plan could improve competition, business innovation – Central Penn Business Journal

Pa. business leaders: Shapiro's budget plan could improve competition, business innovation - Central Penn Business Journal

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s annual budget proposal Tuesday elicited the expected swift response – both positive and negative – from business leaders and organizations across Pennsylvania. PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said the governor’s speech addressed the state’s business climate and the need for Pennsylvania to be more competitive. “We must become more competitive, and we have significant work to do to achieve these shared goals,” said Bernstein. “Several recent studies show Pennsylvania among the bottom 10 states for attracting, retaining, or starting a new business. We have the ability to change that, but we need the right policies, investments, and structure in place, so companies are encouraged to invest in Pennsylvania. Ben Franklin Technology Partners called Shapiro’s 10-year plan to grow Pennsylvania’s a path to job growth and innovation. “States that invest in innovation will secure the jobs of tomorrow, attract the best talent, and realize sustained economic growth,” said Ryan Glenn, Ben Franklin’s director of Statewide Initiatives. Rachele Fortier, state director of Family Friendly Pennsylvania, said the organization applauds Shapiro’s proposed investments that recognize the need for increased access to affordable childcare and support for the childcare workforce. “Additionally, his proposed investments to lower the cost of health care, increase wages for direct care providers, and expand access to home and community-based services will improve the quality of life for so many Pennsylvanians,” said Fortier. #PANeedsTeachers, a statewide coalition focused on addressing Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage crisis, said it is encouraged by Shapiro’s proposed investments to rebuild the teacher pipeline. Yet they noted that while the governor included $15 million in funding to continue initiative to provide stipends for student teachers, they agree with the Basic Education Funding Commission’s findings that the program should be fully funded at approximately $75 million. “We know that a student-teacher stipend is a key component of making the cost of entering the teacher workforce more affordable, and we also believe that we need to establish a teacher scholarship program,” the statement added. “It is important that higher education initiatives recognize the need for more teachers and incentivize students to choose the profession.” In addition to addressing Pennsylvania’s shortage in educators, Shapiro acknowledged the state’s caregiver crisis. Mia Haney, CEO of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, commended the increase in Home and Community Based Services resources, but said the proposal falls short in recognizing workforce shortages in similar medical assistance programs that provide personal assistance services and shift nursing services for seniors, medically fragile children, and individuals with physical disabilities. “All Pennsylvanians deserve access to essential home and community-based services,” said Haney, “and all caregivers deserve to receive a living wage for the invaluable work they do.” The governor’s budget proposes aid to family-owned taverns, bars, and restaurants hurt from losing exclusive six-pack sales by legalizing, regulating, and taxing skill games throughout Pennsylvania. Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, said the association supports gaming expansion into Pennsylvania’s bars, taverns, and licensed restaurants including video gaming terminals (VGTs) and skill games. Moran called for “a win-win situation” for taxpayers and family-owned taverns by expanding gaming via VGTs and skill games in bars. AARP Pennsylvania, which advocates for more than five million Pennsylvanians aged 50 and older, favored the governor’s proposals to create and implement a “Master Plan on Aging” focused on restructuring policy, programs, and funding to support older Pennsylvanians. “From ensuring that older adults have access to housing that is safe and affordable, transportation that is equitable and reliable, nutritious foods that sufficiently meets their dietary needs, to creating a safe harbor at the Pennsylvania Department of Aging where more than 280,000 Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease and their family caregivers can receive the health, social, and support services they need and deserve,” AARP said. LeadingAge PA President and CEO Garry Pezzano agreed with AARP that Shapiro is prioritizing the needs of Pennsylvania’s older population through proposed investments in Affordable Housing, the Long-Term Care Transformation Office, and the Master Plan on Aging. “As the budget process moves forward, we will continue to strongly advocate for long-term care providers grappling with rapidly rising costs, a well-documented workforce shortage, and increasing nursing home staffing minimums that can’t be ignored and must be funded,” said Pezzano. Rosemarie Halt, health policy consultant for Children First and co-chair, Lead-Free Promise Project, said the budget proposal fails to respond to the lead paint poisoning crisis and misses an important opportunity to help low-income homeowners and landlords with the resources they need to remove lead paint-based hazards in older properties. “The proposed $300 million for school environmental repairs is a welcome approach to reducing lead poisoning through lead water pipes in schools,” said Halt. “But lead paint in homes is a major issue facing thousands of families that we must address with all due haste.”