Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland)
During the past three years, Pennsylvania has watched on the sidelines as the national economy has taken off and unemployment has dropped to historic lows.
The annual unemployment rate for the Commonwealth has lagged behind the national rate since 2016 by a half percent.
The White House has suggested that President Donald Trump’s efforts to significantly decrease the number of “unnecessary, outdated, and duplicative regulations” is the main propeller of the nation’s economic comeback. As of October, the Trump administration reported that “regulatory reform efforts saved American families and business owners $23 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018.”
As a business owner in Pennsylvania, and as a state representative who hears from entrepreneurs on a regular basis, I can tell you that our state’s regulatory climate is not friendly to business and job creation.
It is no wonder that we are struggling to keep pace with the national economy when, not only are we among the 10 worst states for debt and unfunded pension liabilities, along with having one of the lowest credit ratings, but we are also struggling to cut the red tape that inhibits job growth.
What incentives do businesses have to stay or move here when we have a regulatory code that takes 18 weeks to read? Or when we have government agencies that take over 100 days to process permit applications? This is not including the time it takes individual workers to receive their licenses from the Department of State for a seemingly endless list of professions such as real estate, occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, social work and more.
Attempting to open a business in Pennsylvania can be one of the most time-consuming endeavors on which you can embark. The list of licenses and permits you may need is extensive and you will likely be dealing with multiple government agencies, with different approval processes and wait times, before you can purchase or build your property and put up your signs.
In fact, if you are bigger than a mom-and-pop business, you may even need state and federal licenses and permits, in addition to local requirements. Is it any wonder Amazon did not choose to locate to Pennsylvania?
On a yearly basis, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) receives 31,000 permit requests. These 31,000 permit requests are 31,000 job creators that are being held up from contributing to Pennsylvania’s economy.
DEP has said that while it has been making efforts to decrease wait times for processing permit applications, it still takes around 100 days to process them. This is in comparison with other states in the nation that take less than a week to approve permits. If you were a business looking for the best state market to set up shop in, the permit review process in Pennsylvania already puts us lower on the list.
I applaud the governor’s efforts to invest in workforce development programs and his administration’s willingness to tackle permit wait times. However, spending more money and hiring more government bureaucrats does not tackle the root cause of our labor woes.
At the end of the day, skilled and educated workers need high-paying employers. And these employers need a more efficient way of receiving permission from the government to build their business.
Moreover, let’s remember that businesses are not the only entities in our communities being affected by this web of regulations.
School projects, residential developments, wells and even highway occupancy programs are being delayed by what the governor has recognized as a “permit paralysis” that is gripping our economy.
Last year, I proposed a bill that would have increased transparency in the permit review process. The legislation would require agencies to post information about the permits that they grant on their website.
This way applicants would have an accessible tracking system to check the status of their requests. Agencies would also have to clearly state the legal authority that they are relying on when they reject a permit application.
The legislation also would allow for third-party review of permit applications. The goal of this system would be to speed up the review process by allowing a list of approved reviewers, licensed and regulated by the Commonwealth, to finish requests.
I have reintroduced my bill again this session, recognizing that Pennsylvania is in dire need of reforming its permitting process.
We owe it to the citizens of Pennsylvania to have our agencies operate with transparency and efficiency. Furthermore, agencies like DEP, Labor and Industry and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are required by law to review permit applications in a timely manner.
This is not just an issue of efficiency but of government reform. It is time for us to put citizens first and unleash Pennsylvania’s economy.
We can start today with common sense permit reform.
Representative Greg Rothman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Basley