by Anthony Hennen
House Republicans want to prioritize the reform of regulatory issues in Pennsylvania, from concerns about taxes and health care to housing and infrastructure.
A Tuesday hearing for the House Republican Policy Committee for “common sense state regulatory reform” highlighted the challenges Pennsylvania faces.
The challenge for making the state more welcoming to businesses, and making it easier for residents to prosper, isn’t a quick fix, experts testified. Nor is one political party to blame.
“Fixing this problem requires hard work,” said David Burton, a senior fellow in economic policy at the Heritage Foundation. “I, personally, am getting a little tired of conservatives going on Fox News and complaining about the administrative state, but never actually sitting down and learning what the rules actually do and then drafting rules to get rid of the problematic rules.”
Burton argued that fixing bad and outdated regulations requires Republicans to learn administrative law to create lasting reforms. He used the tax code as an example of something to reform broadly, rather than only focusing on low rates.
“The overall or average tax burden is less important than marginal rates; generally, what that means is if you load up the tax system with loopholes, it drives rates higher,” Burton said. “You can improve the tax system by getting rid of some of those loopholes and dropping marginal tax rates.”
High housing costs, too, are partially the result of local and state regulations, such as zoning laws.
“Nationally, we have a housing affordability problem, but that’s generally driven by state and local government zoning and land use restrictions that make it difficult for the private sector to build the number of apartments and homes necessary to have affordable housing,” Burton said. “In most big cities, it’s very, very difficult to build new housing and the government always imposes additional costs and restrictions on builders.”
Burdensome rules and restrictions have also popped up as roadblocks in the health care industry.
“Our current regulations can be workforce deterrents,” said Jelden Arcilla, a field vice president for LifePoint Health and a registered nurse with 30 years of experience. “They pose operational impacts and only delay access to care and timely services.”
Arcilla noted the struggles of the Conemaugh School of Nursing, which graduated 200 students in the last three years, that faced “significant delays” to take state board exams and get temporary permits to work.
“Just trying to recruit health care workers from outside of the state, a majority of them — close to 70% — withdrew their apps altogether because of the extended processing times and rigid requirements required by Pennsylvania,” Arcilla said.
He noted his own frustration with the state’s licensing process.
“In my own experience, just applying for my own license, it took nearly a year — at risk of expiration — to be issued it, and only through the advocacy and intervention of Rep. (Jim) Rigby’s office,” Arcilla said.
Barriers to telehealth, too, mean that restrictions “only result in patients in remote and underlying areas not to be able to receive care at all.”
“The status quo in Pennsylvania is unacceptable,” said Chairman Josh Kail, R-Beaver. “It’s not a pretty picture, whether it’s tax issues, whether it’s regulatory issues. It’s all coming together to show and tell the story as to why people are leaving.”
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Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
Photo “Pennsylvania Capitol” by Farragutful. CC BY-SA 4.0.