Pennsylvania is at a crossroads. As lawmakers, we can put an end to the state’s high taxes and costly regulatory environment, and instead build a jobs climate that will encourage our existing employers to stay put and even expand, and draw new businesses and opportunities to every corner of our Commonwealth. 

Or we can continue with the status quo of driving employers away by spending too much on big government, taxing too much to pay for it and harboring a hostile regulatory environment. 

I firmly believe Pennsylvania has the potential to reclaim its position as an economic powerhouse. As the Keystone State, our location is ideal for manufacturing and shipping – we are located within a day’s drive of nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population and 60 percent of the Canadian population. We have a solid, blue-collar work force, as well as top-notch education institutions that help prepare outstanding business, science and technology leaders. And we have a wealth of natural resources ready to be harvested to fuel manufacturing facilities, heat our homes and power our vehicles. 

But even with all we have to offer, Pennsylvania’s economy and job market will not thrive until we build the type of tax and regulatory climate that truly says Pennsylvania is open for business. Like it or not, our Commonwealth is in competition with every state around us for business growth and opportunity. If our tax rates are not competitive, if our regulations are not reasonable, if our regulators are slow to process permits, if our gas prices and Turnpike tolls are too high, if our infrastructure is inadequate – and the list goes on – we will likely lose out. 

Take the natural gas drilling industry for example. Drilling jobs, construction jobs, hauling jobs…what an excellent opportunity this has created for our region! After a few years of decline, primarily due to low gas prices, the number of wells drilled in the Commonwealth last year increased and industry leaders are optimistic that will continue in 2018. 

Why in the world would anyone want to throw a wet blanket on this recovering industry by imposing NEW taxes? 

Well, that’s just what Gov. Tom Wolf and a group of lawmakers – primarily from areas of the state where there is no gas drilling, of course – want to do. They’re pushing hard to enact a severance tax because they claim Pennsylvania is the only gas producing state without one and that drillers must pay their “fair share.” 

They conveniently ignore the fact that gas drilling operations are subject to a multitude of state business taxes AND have been paying “impact fees” for the last five years. Those impact fees alone have generated more than $1.2 billion to help communities like ours where drilling takes place, as well as to support a variety of statewide environmental initiatives. 

Make no mistake. Just because there’s a healthy supply of natural gas here doesn’t mean the drilling companies won’t pick up and leave for one of the many other gas-producing states in the region if the cost of doing business here is too great. 

Contrary to some lawmakers’ beliefs, we cannot balance our budget on the backs of job creators like the natural gas drilling industry. The answer to Pennsylvania’s fiscal problems can be found in cutting waste in government spending and in building a positive job climate to grow the economy to broaden the tax base. 

If we build it, they will come…and if we tax it, they will leave