Harrisburg Happenings: Ryan Bizzarro
Corporate questions hit home.
At Erie and in the Capitol are critical questions about corporate responsibilities. And the answers will surely shape the future of the Commonwealth and northwestern Pennsylvania for years to come.
At home, the shock waves from GE Transportation's announcement of its intention to move as many as 950 jobs from the company's Lawrence Park facility to a GE plant in Texas are still registering in the region.
I immediately joined a bipartisan group of concerned elected officials at the local, state and federal level to work with GE Transportation to do all that it can to keep as many jobs as possible where they belong – at home in Erie.
However, the reality is that this is a corporate decision.
In Harrisburg, the state house wrestled with bills that would establish $250 million in tax credits for companies to convert fleets to run on natural gas, companies that build natural-gas fueling stations, and taxpayers that purchase natural-gas vehicles.
The bills were approved, somewhat along party lines, after debatable parliamentary rulings prevented consideration of proposals that would have used other revenue to pay for the tax credits. I voted for H.B. 305 – promoting natural-gas refueling stations – but against the other two bills.
Few lawmakers have a problem with promoting consumption of cleaner-burning natural gas, a bountiful resource in Pennsylvania. However, the tax credits will drain millions of dollars out of the state budget – money that will be taken from schools, health care, public safety, and other critical programs.
It's a fair question: Shouldn't the natural-gas industry and their subsidiaries bear the costs of the tax credits, which ultimately will help their bottom line?
The governor's budget already proposes more tax cuts for corporations for the third straight year, and corporate taxes have already been cut by $800 million since the current administration took office.
It is completely understandable that business executives at GE have to adjust to remain competitive in a global marketplace. But given what's at stake – the elimination of 950 positions that depend on a 60-day bargaining process with UE Local 506 – I hope executives and union officials arrive at an agreeable solution.
GE and its dedicated workforce – together – forged a productive partnership in Erie County. Both parties owe it to the other to work together to make a decision. As legislators, it's important we help build a bridge between the two.
We'll also explore any and all options to ensure GE's growth and success as an investment in Erie's future. We'll hammer home the fact that the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs will devastate our community.
As we continue to work toward a solution, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns.
All the best,