Feb. 22, 2021

HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Here are the key takeaways from the day:

Now is certainly not the time to raise taxes on Pennsylvanians who are already struggling:

· In response to a question regarding the minimum wage, DCED Secretary Dennis Davin said, “There is never a good time to raise the minimum wage or raise taxes.” We agree, and would add that the middle of a pandemic would most certainly be the worst time.

Waiver party, party of one:

· Former Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a report on the Wolf Administration’s COVID business waiver process on Oct. 6, 2020. According to the report, “the waiver program appeared to be a subjective process built on shifting sands of changing guidance, which led to significant confusion among business owners.” The report also stated that, “numerous business owners and legislators complained that DCED’s waiver process lacked transparency, moved too slowly and provided inconsistent or changing answers.”

· Today, Davin said, “the waiver process was not a debacle” and stated that, “I take full credit for that.” It appears the secretary is on a short list of people who think the waiver process was a success.

· Federal data shows that pandemic restrictions forced roughly 30% of Pennsylvania businesses statewide to close, at least temporarily, which would make us the second worst state in the nation after Michigan.

Shutting down Main Street spells trouble for Pennsylvania communities:

· Davin confirmed that 43 municipalities are projected to be under Act 47 by the end of the current fiscal year and 62 municipalities by the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the loss of economic activity. There are currently 16 municipalities in Act 47 status.

Gov. Tom Wolf to ignore calls to delay RGGI implementation:

· Last week, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) called for a one-year moratorium on the implementation of Wolf’s mandate that Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and questioned the Environmental Quality Board’s authority to impose such a regulation. Despite this call, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell testified that the department plans to push ahead and publish a rule by the end of the year.

· Remarkably, when asked if he was concerned about the job loss associated with the closure of power plants, McDonnell replied, “It’s not a matter of if, but when these plants close.”

· As House Republican’s work on the Commonwealth’s COVID comeback, we believe new regulatory schemes that result in higher electricity prices and job loss are the wrong direction for Pennsylvania. Under RGGI, residential customers would see electricity prices increase 11% according to data from the Penn State Center for Energy Law and Policy.

· When asked if a senior citizen on a fixed income will see their electricity rates increase, McDonnell replied, “yes.”

Appropriations Committee
House Republican Caucus
Pennsylvania House of Representatives