Key to PA’s Success Isn’t More Bureaucracy – It’s More Business Innovation
Pennsylvania brims with natural resources and human talent – but for the past eight years, the state’s heavy regulatory hand has often restrained opportunities for innovation. With a new gubernatorial administration and state legislature, including a newly elected Speaker of the House who has pledged to lead as an Independent, Pennsylvania has a choice to make: embrace its potential as a leader of the Northeast, or allow more bureaucracy to crush it.
Our commonwealth can change course and move toward innovation and opportunity. To do so, our elected officials must look to entrepreneurs and community leaders who are already leading the way.
Consider CNX Resources Corporation, a Canonsburg-based Marcellus and Utica Shale producer led by CEO Nick DeIuliis. CNX produces lower-cost, lower-emission natural gas by employing a new wave of innovative technologies. But the real value for Pennsylvanians comes from CNX’s Appalachia First vision, which outlines how the resources within Pennsylvania and Appalachia can be harnessed to deliver affordable energy – and then reinvested into local communities.
Our commonwealth has one of the largest and cleanest reliable energy sources in the nation: Pennsylvania exports more electricity than any other state and ranks second for energy exports and natural gas production. Yet, the energy sector faces prohibitive restrictions on drilling and pipeline development. Pennsylvania’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – unilaterally pushed by outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf – will make things worse. Electric bills in Pennsylvania are already up, on average, 73% since 2020, but with RGGI they would skyrocket an additional 24 to 36%. Lawmakers should look instead to private businesses like CNX that are forging a path forward.
As the private sector leads the way on innovation, we must continue to invest in our commonwealth’s most precious resource: our children. Pennsylvania has what it takes to become a national leader in educational opportunity. Despite hostility from the outgoing Wolf administration, the state legislature has made enormous strides in giving students access to high-quality schools of their choice. Last year, Pennsylvania achieved the second-largest expansion of school choice in the country. In the last eight years, state lawmakers have quadrupled the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) scholarship program, growing it from $60 million to $263 million. Thousands of Pennsylvania’s low- to middle-income kids now have the opportunity to create brighter futures.
While a growing number of children have access to tax-credit scholarships, the state waitlists over 76,000 students because of program caps. Pennsylvania could follow Arizona’s lead and give every student direct access to funding through education-opportunity accounts, but special interests – namely, the government-union executives that run the Pennsylvania State Education Association – stand in the way.
Williamson College of the Trades leads by example. All students of the junior vocational school receive full scholarships, with no obligation; Williamson is the only postsecondary school in the nation to do this. Eighty percent of Williamson’s students are eligible for federal Pell Grants. The school’s mission is to provide low-income young men with opportunities, and it’s succeeding: 96% of students get jobs after graduation.
Pennsylvania should be a competitive hub for business and talent – the state ranks third in the nation for universities that produce a well-educated workforce. And our location is prime for businesses: Pennsylvania is within a day’s drive of nearly 40% of the U.S. population and 40% of the nation’s largest markets.
But our commonwealth is losing business and talent – over 250,000 residents in the last decade – to other states. During the pandemic, Pennsylvania businesses endured one of the nation’s most expansive shutdowns and continue to be burdened by one of the highest corporate income tax rates.
We need more leaders like CNX and Williamson, not more bureaucracy.
A recent study found that while few states have “as many of the assets needed for innovation-driven growth as Pennsylvania,” the commonwealth struggles to convert its resources into growth and prosperity. In this new year, we need to unlock our potential and accelerate the progress we have already made.
Pennsylvania has the people and resources it needs to bring more prosperity to our communities. Now we need bureaucrats to get out of the way.