PLAINS TWP. — State Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser was in the region Monday to meet with local business leaders to explain Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 2014-15 state budget and how Corbett’s initiatives have benefited the state’s business climate.
Speaking before a crowd of 90 inside the Keystone Ballroom at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino/Hotel, Meuser touted the job Corbett has done in his first term, including lessening business taxes and trying to spur development and jobs.
And, Meuser added, the governor has done so without a tax hike.
Meuser, a Shavertown resident who once served as president of Pride Mobility Products in Exeter, was invited to speak before a joint chamber of commerce luncheon. Those from the Greater Scranton, Greater Wilkes-Barre, Great Hazleton and Greater Pittston chambers were invited to participate.
Some in the audience said the governor had a tough undertaking when he entered office, and they believe he’s doing a good job.
“I think it’s important that state governments continue to create a better environment for business growth,” said Jeffrey K. Box, the president of the NEPA Alliance, an economic development organization serving multiple counties in the region. “I think they are setting the tone that Pennsylvania is going to be a more business-friendly state.”
That included requiring some online retailers that have footholds here but no storefronts to collect and remit state sales taxes. Meuser said the state realized an additional $88 million in revenue last fiscal year thanks to this effort.
“They should have been collecting sales tax just like everyone on Main Street does,” he said.
Jim Gallagher, president of Aviation Technologies, the fixed-based operator at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, said he left impressed with what’s happened to date and what’s on the horizon.
He said he believes things are improving in the state and he hopes the state government continues to foster ideals that continue down that path.
“The cost of doing business in Pennsylvania was simply too high,” Meuser said. And the administration has undertaken initiatives to make the state more attractive to companies and to better prepare potential employees.
Job creation is also a key to Corbett’s proposed $29.4 billion budget budget, and Meuser was quick to note that things are going in the right direction after a lengthy recession.
At its peak, unemployment in the state was at 9.2 percent. Now it is at 6.9 percent, a five-year low.
As part of the budget, Meuser noted, there is additional funding to help increase job training and research. Chief among them are a $5 million increase to the Pennsylvania First program. The proposal includes a $2 million increase to the The Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA) Job Training program to train an additional 10,000 employees and a $3 million increase to the base program.
Corbett also has overseen the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and created tax breaks with an aim of boosting business investment.
But more can be done, including simplifying the sales tax code.
“We do need a real improvement in reforms to our overall tax code,” Meuser said. “Give us a second term and we’re going to work on it.”