Pennsylvania faces work force shortages in several sectors, including the science and technology, health care and accounting fields. And as Pennsylvania’s population ages, our population is at risk of decline which will impact the economic health and competitiveness of the commonwealth.
(1) If elected Governor, please describe your economic development and workforce investment strategies to address these workforce shortages and create more career pipelines for Pennsylvania’s future work force?
Wagner: As a 40-year private sector businessman, I have felt the adverse impact created by abusive regulations and burdensome taxes on the business community. Pennsylvania has 153,661 restrictions and a regulatory authority that is out of control. All of this leaves Pennsylvania unable to compete for new business. As governor, overhauling these government impositions is a top priority. While burdensome taxes and regulations keep many businesses from being able to pay attractive wages, the lack of skilled labor is also a detrimental factor in Pennsylvania. While there is an abundance of skilled jobs in the commonwealth, which deliver good wages, job security and career paths — there are not enough people to fill them. We have to encourage an educational structure that shows children that a pathway to work does not always mean four-years at college. It can mean career and technical training, shorter degree programs, and industry certification programs. My administration will retool the thinking in our schools by emphasizing the respect these vocations deserve.
Wolf: My goal is to increase the number of Pennsylvania workers with postsecondary training from 47% today to 60% by 2025. To reach this goal, I've called for a first-of-its-kind $50 million strategic invest in job training and the launch of PAsmart– a realignment of workforce development from K-12 education through career programs so students and workers gain the 21st Century skills to get good jobs that employers demand.
PAsmart includes investments in STEM and computer science education, apprenticeships, Industry Partnerships, Career and Technical Education and STEM career pathways, and employer partnerships with colleges and universities. The initiative also includes the launch of a new website to help people access information about pursuing an education and career in Pennsylvania.
Tax credits, such as the Earned income Tax Credit, are an important tax policy which keeps thousands of working Pennsylvania families out of poverty and helps them pay essential bills. In 2016, over 900,000 Pennsylvanians claimed the federal EITC, which allowed for $2.1 billion to be spent in Pennsylvania communities.
(2) If elected Governor, would you support a state Earned Income Tax Credit, which is currently offered by twenty-six other states?
Wagner: As Governor I am going to make it a priority to get Harrisburg’s financial house in order, and as such I would need to evaluate the financial impact of implementing a state EITC. Due to growing deficits in Michigan and Wisconsin, those states reduced the state EITC in 2011 and Connecticut and North Carolina did the same in 2013. Harrisburg does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending and mismanagement problem. This goes to a fundamental problem I plan to tackle as Governor – a top down reform of our tax code. Our current tax code has been written by lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants. I believe that we have to write a tax code that puts working families first. Studies show that a state EITC can help free up resources for child care expenses and can be a fiscal stimulus. Tax credits such as EITC should be on the table in a tax code that prioritizes our families over the powerful special interests in Harrisburg.
Wolf: Here in Pennsylvania, millionaires pay exactly the same tax rate as their secretaries. The result is that millionaires have a much lower tax burden, while in comparison, Pennsylvania's middle class has a higher burden. I believe there is a better way to move the economy forward and want to reform Pennsylvania's tax code to make it more fair. We need a fairer system in Pennsylvania so that millionaires pay their fair share and middle-class families have the resources to send their kids to college and save for retirement.
In addition to exploring a constitutional amendment to make our tax system fair for hard working families in Pennsylvania, I will explore other potential changes, like an EITC program, as part of a comprehensive tax reform initiative.
Pennsylvania is a state with some of the strongest predatory lending laws, which prohibit predatory lenders from taking advantage of individuals with limited to no income. In recent legislative sessions, there has been some push to change these laws, which would make it easier for predatory lenders to sell products to low-income individuals perpetuating their cycle of debt and thus prevent their advancement out of poverty.
(3) If elected Governor, how would your administration respond to proposals of more lenient predatory lending laws in Pennsylvania?
Wagner: As with any legislative proposal, it is imperative to see the final language before taking a position. I support Pennsylvania’s strong predatory lending laws and believe they help to ensure that those battling out of poverty are not forced to stay there longer than necessary. As Governor, I would advise the legislature that I do not support proposals that would make it easier for low-income individuals access to such predatory loans. We do have a responsibility to make sure that all individuals have access to credit and capital in a fair and market-based manner. Too many Pennsylvanians are passed over by traditional financing and banks, and I plan to be a Governor who helps those that are the most vulnerable.
Wolf: I will not support proposals for more lenient predatory lending laws in Pennsylvania. We must hold predatory lenders accountable and work to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by them. In 2015, I announced my Consumer Financial Protection Initiative as a means to educate the public about financial protection and best practices in a concise, efficient way. As part of this initiative, we aim to protect consumers from predatory loans through a collaboration between PennDOT and the Department of Banking and Securities to share information from trusted sources who are at risk of losing their cars to companies offering "easy money" loans using car titles as collateral.