Pa. House Democratic Caucus


House Democrats call for action on jobs


HARRISBURG, Oct. 19 – With high unemployment continuing to trouble Pennsylvania, House Democratic lawmakers urged their Republican counterparts to put aside a divisive social agenda and join Democrats in making jobs the priority item for legislative action.


“It has been nine months since Governor Corbett took office. The governor and Republican leaders have failed to lead on the issue that’s most important to Pennsylvanians,” Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said.


“Every public opinion survey, as well as what we hear in our own districts, confirms that people are most concerned about jobs and the economy, not the out-of-whack issues that Republicans are pushing instead.”


Since Republicans passed the Corbett budget in June, unemployment in Pennsylvania has risen more than half a percentage point, and 45,000 additional workers lost their jobs in just three months.


“More than half a million of our fellow Pennsylvanians want to work but cannot find jobs,” said Democratic Whip Mike Hanna. “Nothing that the Republican majority has done this year has had a positive effect when it comes to jobs. It’s time to try something new.”


The House Democratic plan – JumpstartPA – would take a back-to-basics approach, emphasizing infrastructure maintenance and repairs, restoration of education cuts made in the Corbett budget, worker training, and tax credits to help employers hire more workers.


It also features an innovative Back-to-Work Incentive Program for unemployed workers who take a new job that pays substantially less than they earned before. This will speed workers’ reentry into the labor force while saving money for the state’s Unemployment Compensation system.


Democratic Caucus Secretary Jennifer Mann spoke about an initiative aimed at helping small businesses.


“Small businesses are the innovators – the high-tech, high-wage jobs of tomorrow are being created today in small firms all across our state,” Mann said. “A key part of JumpstartPA is HirePA – encouraging small business expansion and job creation.


“This would allow employers to retain up to seventy-five percent of payroll withholding tax for newly created full-time jobs that pay at least the federal average wage. To take part, a small business would have to create as few as five new jobs depending on location,” she said.


Rep. Curtis Thomas, Democratic chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee, highlighted proposed new tax credits to aid job creation and job training.


“Tax credits are a proven way for government to promote areas of growth,” Thomas said. “The JumpstartPA plan would target this assistance to veterans, recent graduates, and the long-term unemployed people whose numbers have grown to an alarming level.”


Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla noted that Republicans have put a number of peripheral issues ahead of jobs.


“Pennsylvanians deserve more than the current Republican pandering to the extreme right-wing fringe of their caucus. Pennsylvanians deserve action on the issues that matter to them. They deserve action that puts them back to work, that educates their children, and that at least treats them as favorably as out-of-state gas drillers,” Sturla said.


Since June when Governor Corbett and the Republican majority ignored Democratic ideas and passed a budget that slashed education, health care, human services, agriculture, libraries, tourism, environmental protection, and many other programs, unemployment in Pennsylvania rose from 7.4 percent to 8.2 percent.


In August, more than 516,000 jobless Pennsylvanians who want to work were collecting unemployment compensation. The September employment figure will be released tomorrow.