HARRISBURG – September 26 – State Senate Democrats today unveiled their revised job creation plan, called “PA Works Now,” which they claim would create 80,000 new jobs and leverage billions in private investment to generate jobs and economic activity.
State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said job creation is the number one priority for this fall’s session of the General Assembly. He added that the PA Works Now package does not require new broad based taxes, is fully paid for and does not put additional strain on the state General Fund.
“PA Works Now features a new investment vehicle called the Pennsylvania Investment Bank that will quickly pump $1.2 billion into the economy and create jobs,” Costa said. “Our goal is to jump start the economy and create new jobs in the shortest possible time.
“Job creation is the most important issue lawmakers must tackle this fall.”
The Democrats’ plan includes renewed investment in job-producing programs and public works such as water and sewer projects as well as money for new business investments. The plan also provides a new round of capital infusion for the state Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund and would establish Pennsylvania’s version of the successful “Georgia Works” on-the-job training program.
The Pennsylvania Investment Bank would target more than $1.2 billion for water and sewer system reconstruction, new business investment and other public works. The bank would capture funds generated from existing borrowing capacity. The bank would use $500 million in Commonwealth Finance Authority dollars plus a half-billion from PENNVEST (Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority).
The investment bank would also utilize $80 million in funds from a proposed Marcellus Shale tax or fee along with surplus state revenues. Democrats estimate that these sources would generate $180 million.
“There are so many workers who are looking for jobs and even more who are worried about what is next for them in this very difficult economic recovery,” Costa said. “Our comprehensive PA Works Now plan addresses job creation and presents an opportunity to move our economy forward.”
Democrats said action is needed now on their job creation plan because of the recent increase in unemployment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate spiked by nearly a half percent from July to August – rising to 8.2 percent. Since May, the number of unemployed Pennsylvanians grew by 45,000.
Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) decried the alarming increase in unemployment and the inaction of both the Corbett Administration and Republican lawmakers who control floor action in both the state House and Senate.
“The Corbett Administration has failed to respond to the hardship in the labor market in any discernable way,” Hughes said. “The administration is either tone-deaf to the plight of the unemployed or focusing on political wedge issues that do not create jobs. They’ve produced no new jobs plan.
“The priorities of the administration are skewed,” Hughes said.
Hughes criticized Corbett and Republicans for focusing on changing the apportionment of electoral votes, English-only legislation and voter ID legislation. These issues interest only “politicos on the extreme political fringe of the Republican Party. These proposals do nothing to help our economy grow,” Hughes said.
“We are stuck debating issues that appeal to the political extreme at the expense of working families,” Hughes said. “Working men and women need jobs. They don’t need political talk. That is a sham and it’s a shame.”
Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said the state has lost an opportunity to reverse negative economic trends. She noted that the recent business downturn has had a disproportionate impact on educators, women, minorities and Pennsylvania’s youth.
According to Schwank, the Corbett budget cuts have put several thousand educators or school staff out of work. The Berks county lawmaker said Senate Democrats will soon flesh-out a package of bills that would specifically help women, minorities and young people find jobs.
“Failing to take action now condemns those who have a difficulty getting jobs in a robust economy – women, minorities and our youth – to even deeper despair when the labor market contracts,” Schwank said. “Doing nothing on job creation is not an answer and it’s not fair. That’s why we need to work on a jobs plan like PA Works Now.”
Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), who previously served as secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said PA Works Now would inject much-needed capital into business investment and job creation programs. He said doing so is essential toward generating economic activity and employment opportunities now.
“There is no question that our recovery from the recession is soft,” Blake said. “The state has a responsibility to incent private sector investment for job growth.”
Costa, Hughes, Schwank and Blake were joined by a host of Senate Democratic colleagues at the Capitol news conference.
Senate Democrats unveiled a previous version of PA Works earlier this year.
Senators who attended today’s news conference included Democratic Whip Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Chairman Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette/Somerset), Caucus Secretary Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Administrator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) and state Sens. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery), John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Monroe/Carbon) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington/Greene).