Pennsylvania needs to have a “one-stop shop” approach for economic development through the governor’s office to municipalities.
That was the message brought forward by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor in the Nov. 8 election, during a visit and interview with the New Castle News.
Shapiro said when it comes attracting new jobs and industries in the state, as well as retaining jobs, there are a series of steps that need to be done.
One of those is cutting down the state’s business taxes, currently the second-highest in the nation at 9.99%.
If elected, he would like to see that lowered to 4% by 2025.
“That’s aggressive, but that’s going to show we’re open for business,” Shapiro said. “I think we also need to be far more nimble and quick in processing permits and other things that are necessary for businesses to operate at the same level.”
The “one-stop shop” approach would work to help invest in communities, such as rural ones, and to help promote aging aging main streets that haven’t seen real investment from the state in years.
“If we’re going to have an economic resurgence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it’s going to require us to do better in communities like New Castle, and Lawrence County, and try to make sure that we both protect the jobs we have and create new ones,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said he wants more opportunities for job growth through industries like clean energy, as well as through agriculture and the fossil fuel industry. Investing in Pennsylvania’s current industries doesn’t mean it also can’t choose to invest in clean energy as well.
“I think it’s a matter of protecting the jobs we have for the boilermakers of today, but creating thousands of new green jobs tomorrow that electrical workers and others are going to participate in,” he said. “We can do both and, as governor, we will.”
Shapiro said he would like to increase the amount of energy the state produces from renewable resources from 8% to 30% by the year 2030, which would incentivize a growth in green-energy jobs.
At the same time, he said he wants to encourage development of large-scale projects, such as the soon-to-be-completed Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex “cracker plant” in Potter Township, Beaver County.
When asked, Shapiro said Pennsylvania shouldn’t shy away from taking advantage of using its natural resources, such as its natural gas through fracking, stating the Commonwealth can both increase business and industry, while also protecting the environment.
He said one way to address climate change is to plug in the almost half million abandoned “orphan wells” across the state that leak more methane into the air than any other source.
Shapiro also noted he will not allow companies to violate environmental laws, noting his history as attorney general of filing charges against fracking companies in the past.
EducationWhen it comes to education, Shapiro said he wants to make sure schools, of all areas, are properly funded. Plenty of schools, both rural and urban, are “chronically underfunded,” he said.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, using Republican candidate Doug Mastriano’s comments on decreasing per-student funding allocations for public schools, calculated funding and job losses for each school district in Pennsylvania. In total, the PSEA calculated more than $62.5 million in budget cuts to county schools and the elimination of 620 jobs.
Mastriano’s education plan includes bringing school choice to the state and establishing a “parental rights” statute in state law for curriculum.
Shapiro said he wants to move away from the schools’ current reliance on standardized testing, and instead focus on adding more vocational, technical and computer programs in school, and invest in more apprenticeship programs after school.
“We need more welders, we need more electricians, we need more plumbers. We need a whole lot more skill trades than we have right now,” Shapiro said. “We’ve got to make sure that we have those skilled workers.”
Shapiro said he wants to have more parents involved in deciding what is being taught in schools by appointing them to be on the state board of education, which sets the standards that school districts use when making their curriculum.
“That is how we’re going to show parents are involved in their education, and the things being taught to our children are appropriate,” Shapiro said.