WHERE WE STAND
The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce works on behalf of its member companies to advocate for a healthier, more competitive business climate. As the largest business association in Westmoreland County – and as one of the largest Chambers in all of SWPA – our voice resonates when speaking about the interests of small and large companies across a myriad of industries. Policy makers and elected officials from Westmoreland County, Harrisburg, and Washington D.C. look to Westmoreland County Chamber for an unvarnished, non-partisan assessment of what is important to our business community.
In short, The Westmoreland County Chamber support’s pro-business regulations and legislation that we believe will make for a better business climate without compromising the health, safety, and well-being of the communities we serve. We take a commonsense approach to identifying reforms and legislation that underscore our continued commitment to advance economic growth across Westmoreland County. We are a non-partisan organization that acts on the credo ‘Issues Not People.’ We believe that no matter what one’s political affiliation, responsible citizens from all walks of life want better paying jobs, stronger schools, sound infrastructure, safe neighborhoods, preservation of natural resources, accountable leadership, and efficient government. The Chamber takes on the mission of convening the right people to tackle issues head on as a way to make our community a better place to live, learn, work, shop, and play.
Our advocacy platform is the cornerstone of the Chamber’s mission to advance the visibility of Westmoreland County as an attractive place for businesses to locate, grow, and prosper. The Westmoreland County Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee in conjunction with our Board of Directors and other key stakeholders around our region researches issues that are important to supporting a positive business environment. Below is a brief outline of the issues we have identified as critical to our short and long term economic success. The Chamber is committed to meeting regularly with key stakeholders, policy makers, and elected officials to advocate for these issues on behalf of our members and the business community at-large.
For a listing of Westmoreland County Elected Officials, click here
RESPONSIBLE SPENDING AND SMART GOVERNMENT
The Westmoreland County Chamber urges elected officials at all levels of government to work collaboratively toward enactment of responsible, on-time, zero-based budgets. Recognizing that financial pressures have complicated finances and budget deliberations at all levels of government, these circumstances will inevitably prompt calls for additional revenue. We strongly believe that all opportunities for cost-savings and other reforms should be exhausted before any new or higher taxes are considered. We support efforts to fairly address the unfunded liability in the state and municipal pension systems and provide for the long-term solvency of these programs.
Learn more about our position on pension reform at http://fixthenumbers.com/ and http://www.alleghenyconference.org/CSC/
IMPROVING THE BUSINESS TAX STRUCTURE
Pennsylvania’s corporate tax policies and tax rate continue to put the Commonwealth at a competitive disadvantage. Recent changes including improving the tax appeals process, increasing the cap on the use of Net Operating Losses, and eliminating the Capital Stock & Franchise Tax were steps in the right direction. However, comprehensive reforms and reductions in business taxes are still necessary to help stimulate economic development. We support reducing the Corporate Net Income tax rate and a broad-based review of the entire tax structure while opposing the adoption of burdensome reporting requirements, new fees, and additional regulations.
Click here to download our position statement on Proposed Property Tax Reform S.B. 76 / H.B.76
AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE
The Chamber believes Pennsylvanians must have affordable and accessible health care. Addressing the rising cost of health care is paramount to impacting affordability. Government should build on the strengths of market-based, employer-sponsored systems or purchasing pools to obtain stable premiums while enacting reforms aimed at lower costs, incentivizing improved quality outcomes, and access to a more value-driven system that relies on well informed and cost sensitive consumers. We also support increased transparency of cost and quality outcomes to assist the consumer. We are opposed to a government-run health care system that would impose mandates and cost shifting that hinders fair market competition. The Chamber is opposed to any proposal that will further increase the cost of health insurance impacting small businesses and individual premium payers. The Chamber supports community partnerships with local health care providers. These partnerships should identify community health issues and work together to address these health issues to create healthier communities while also helping to further reduce the cost of health care in this region.
EDUCATION & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
The Westmoreland County Chamber believes a highly skilled, well-educated population is essential to our local economy’s success. Cooperation between the public and private sectors is needed to ensure accountability and accomplishment. The Chamber believes students of all ages need to pursue appropriate educational opportunities to meet the demands of local employers. We acknowledge that many jobs in today’s market do not require a traditional four-year degree or graduate level studies. While professional occupations are important, that track may not be appropriate for some students. Job seekers must be made more aware of the advantages of pursuing family sustaining jobs in what is often referred to as the ‘blue collar’ sector.
The Westmoreland County Chamber stands strong in the belief that all citizens must possess a general understanding of how our economy works. This understanding is paramount to the long term stability and success of our society. Students should have at least a basic knowledge of the importance of free enterprise, basic economic theories, the impacts of profit and loss, rules of supply and demand, the importance of government and business cooperation, and an appreciation for the role of profitability in our culture.
ENERGY MARKETS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS
All businesses and residents need access to reliable and affordable energy. This requires a regulatory climate and necessary infrastructure to foster exploration, production, generation, transmission and distribution systems throughout the Commonwealth. The Chamber supports the passage of comprehensive energy legislation that seeks to increase domestic production and conservation, upgrades our energy delivery system, and encourages development of new energy technology. It is imperative to the health and well-being of our community that energy sector businesses be environmentally conscious and follow existing regulations. The Chamber seeks to encourage energy sector growth while at the same time striving to protect the natural environment. We passionately believe these two objectives need not be in direct conflict with one another.
CREATING AN EQUITABLE CIVIL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Pennsylvania’s legal climate is conducive to frivolous lawsuits and lacks protections that create a fair, balanced and common sense system. The Chamber supports legal reforms that help prevent lawsuit abuse while protecting the right of legitimate plaintiffs to seek justice. The Chamber supports lawsuit abuse reform proposals that provide for full and timely compensation of parties legitimately able to demonstrate damages; give employers predictability and certainty; change the judicial system to achieve greater efficiencies and unbiased justice; and contribute to greater productivity and economic prosperity.
MODERN, SAFE, EFFICIENT AND RELIABLE INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS
It is imperative that Westmoreland County possess and maintain adequately funded and reliable transportation and utility systems and other infrastructure. The Chamber advocates for greater efficiencies in their construction, maintenance and delivery, including streamlined permit and regulatory processes. To be competitive with neighboring states and within our own region, we must improve our infrastructure to better facilitate the free flow of goods and commerce along with the mobility of our citizens for business and recreational activities. This includes roads, bridges, ports, railways, airports, mass transit, water, sewage, internet access, electricity, natural gas, and more.
Among the specific transportation projects we identify as vitally important to our long term economic success, are the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project which connects Routes 30 & 981 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike near New Stanton; and the construction of a new interchange connecting the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) to Route 130 in Penn Township.
BALANCED LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAWS AND REGULATIONS
State laws and regulations that dictate labor relations and employment policies in Pennsylvania are often outdated, insufficient or unbalanced and changes are necessary to address abuses and facilitate a fair work environment. The Chamber supports eliminating misuse and improving the financial condition of the unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation systems. We oppose excessive mandates and artificial wage inflators that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business.
OUR REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT IS NEGATIVELY IMPACTING BUSINESSES
The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce supports sensible business regulations. However, we believe that many regulatory agencies have overstepped their bounds by instituting regulations not passed by Congress at the Federal level or by the General Assembly at the State level. The often politically charged regulatory atmosphere has become overly burdensome on the business community.
Learn more by reading the Clean Power Plan Amicus Brief at https://www.pachamber.org/advocacy/priorities/energy_environmental/environmental/testimony/pdf/166_Business_Associations_-_Clean_Power_Amicus_Brief.pdf?1460722390
GAMING REVENUE AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
The Westmoreland County Chamber believes casino gaming has benefitted the Commonwealth in terms of job creation and tax generation, and has spurred development in and around casino locations. The Chamber strongly supports amending current legislation, or introducing new legislation, which collects and distributes gaming revenue on a more fair and equitable basis. Effective change would create a level playing field among counties and move all of Pennsylvania forward.