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Federal Legislative Update: February 2017

Posted Thursday, February 16th, 2017

CEO Council for Growth, Advocacy, Economy

The Chamber is pleased to provide a federal legislative update on legislative issues viewed as critical to growing Greater Philadelphia’s economy and quality of life.  These policy issues are primarily informed by the work of the Chamber’s CEO Council for Growth (CEO Council), which is committed to enhancing economic growth and prosperity in our region through regional and national policy.

Upcoming Events

We hope you will join us on Monday, February 27th at the upcoming Congressional Staff Luncheon beginning at 11:30am at The Logan in Philadelphia.  This is a popular event that provides Congressional staff and regional business leaders the opportunity to connect.

Infrastructure

Greater Philadelphia is a thriving metropolitan area that offers unparalleled global access, a well-placed geographic location, an outstanding talent pool, a huge market of customers, and an incredible quality of life.  In our history, we placed a high importance on infrastructure as a strategic economic asset and have implemented projects that were truly transformational. Still, our region is changing so quickly that new investments are critical to accommodate and accelerate such outstanding development.  The future of our region rests in large part on our ability to secure investments for projects that can expand use of our multimodal nodes, highways, bridges, transit, ports, pipelines, inter-city passenger rail, and international airport.

The Chamber and CEO Council are encouraged by the Trump Administration’s call for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment over the next ten years. Over the last 6 months, the CEO Council has worked to define a clear and succinct investment portfolio that supports and accelerates the growth of employment centers, strengthens and expands the flow of goods and cargo, and increasingly connects our region to the globe.  The CEO Council will use share this strategy and advocate for funding and implementation of specific key project portfolios. They are based on an evaluation of the strategic packages’ ability to impact three distinct factors: economy, mobility, and livability.

High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail

The CEO Council recently joined the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor (CNEC), which represents the spectrum of transportation and business community stakeholders whose employees rely on the corridor to conduct commerce, create jobs, and drive the U.S. economy forward. The coalition is a regional and national advocacy effort led by market participants that benefit most from a strong and vibrant Northeast Corridor (NEC), the end-users themselves.

The coalition’s mission is to advocate for federal infrastructure investment to protect the NEC’s future. The coalition allows its members to speak with a unified voice to encourage Congress to appropriate the authorized funding for the NEC in order to ensure its future vibrancy.

The challenge in upholding this critical asset is the amount of funding required, $52 billion over the next 20 years, in order to reach a state-of-good-repair and accommodate future growth. According to both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the corridor’s rail infrastructure will fail without major investment. A sustained infrastructure failure of this magnitude portends serious challenges for rail infrastructure not only in the Northeast, but also throughout the United States. According to the Northeast Corridor Commission, “The loss of the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion, productivity losses, and other transportation impacts.” In order to achieve long term success, Congress must appropriate discretionary funds to establish an infrastructure funding program.

Therefore, CNEC endeavors to:

  • Increase congressional appropriations for recently authorized rail infrastructure grant program—The FAST Act authorized a new Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (Sec. 11302): For FY 2017, the Senate funded at $20 million and the House funded at $25 million.  However, the NEC needs $500 million (same amount that the TIGER program receives annually).
  • Include significant Rail funding in upcoming Infrastructure Package—President Trump, administration officials, and congressional staff have discussed a push to pass a large infrastructure package in the new Congress.

Comprehensive Tax Reform

The Chamber continues to be a strong advocate for comprehensive tax reform as a means to improving competitiveness, economic development, and job creation in Greater Philadelphia. The Chamber looks forward to working with Members of our delegation as the prospects for tax reform continue to grow stronger. Efforts to reform the tax code should promote simplicity and certainty.

We’ve stated before that responsible tax reform must include a competitive tax structure for both the individual and corporate income tax rates.  Congress must advance a competitive individual income tax structure for employers that report the flow-through of income and losses on their personal tax returns and are assessed at the individual income tax rates. Restructuring the corporate tax rate – the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world – would encourage foreign companies to locate in the U.S. and incentivize investment in new hires, capital investments, and research and development by U.S. companies.

Comprehensive tax reform must include an international tax system that will help companies compete globally, grow domestically, and increase repatriated income. Under the current deferral system, U.S. firms have a big incentive to leave their foreign earnings offshore, where they can avoid U.S. taxes. Estimates value the total of cash and assets parked offshore at $2 trillion. Congress should adopt a tax system that will help American companies build global brands while continuing to strengthen operations back home. Eliminating all or most of the double-tax on repatriated income from foreign affiliates would remove a competitive disadvantage and encourage greater investment in our economy from foreign profits.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team (GPEAT), an initiative of the Chamber, works to support and develop projects that will increase the supply of natural gas into the Greater Philadelphia region and increase the amount of natural gas consumed. One of the group’s priority projects includes the PennEast Pipeline, currently under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is a five member commission that requires a minimum of three members to keep a quorum. A recent resignation leaves the commission with only two members, which will greatly complicate the agency’s

ability to make final decisions on interstate pipeline certifications and contested ratemakings for weeks, if not months. We believe it is critical support efforts to nominate at least one Commissioner as soon as possible to restore quorum and allow FERC to conduct meetings and issue project certifications so as to limit delays to interstate pipeline projects.


Mobilizing Greater Philadelphia’s Middle Market

The Chamber recently released Mobilizing Greater Philadelphia’s Middle Market, a first-of-its-kind in-depth analysis of our region’s middle market. The report highlights six key themes that emerged for what is needed to support middle market growth in Greater Philadelphia.

  1. STEM and Front-Line Talent
  2. Sustaining Growth in Closely Held Businesses
  3. Access to Capital Needed for Growth
  4. Business Climate
  5. Transportation Infrastructure
  6. Industry Hubs and Startup Pipeline

Middle market companies – those with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion – are a critical growth and employment engine for the economy of the Greater Philadelphia Region. Taken as a group, Greater Philadelphia’s middle market companies:

  • Represent 27% of total employment despite accounting for only ~1% of companies
  • Have a combined revenue of over $180 billion for the Greater Philadelphia Region
  • Project revenue growth 4.8 percentage points higher than the middle market nationwide

Supporting the middle market requires a mix of increasing awareness of these key businesses and their needs, providing resources to educate and mentor middle market companies on the concerns that matter most, and coordinating available local resources across organizations to present a coherent voice for the middle market. The Chamber will be actively supporting growth within the middle market through the work of its Middle Market Action Team.


Perkins Act

The Chamber and CEO Council join more than 350 organizations nationwide in support of reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (Perkins) Act, which helps our region close the skills gap between the shortage of skilled workers and the supply of in-demand positions. Career and technical education (CTE) programs, throughout the country, are central to overcoming this skills gap. CTE is an effective tool for improving student outcomes and helps prepare both secondary and postsecondary students with the necessary academic, technical, and employability skills required for successful entry into the workforce. Indeed, CTE prepares students both for college and careers.

In the 114th Congress, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported the passage of H.R. 5587, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Perkins Act. To realize the goals of this legislation, we must also provide the resources to ensure that all students have access to high-quality CTE programs that are academically rigorous and aligned to the needs of business and industry.

Reauthorizing the Perkins Act is critical for the continued economic prosperity of the United States and ensures the country remain a leader in global competitiveness. As Congress sets out on this task, we urge our delegation to focus on areas where improvements can be made to the current law, building upon its past successes and enhancing aspects of the Perkins Act, which will help to better serve both workers and employers. A reauthorized version of Perkins should:

  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and
  • Promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.

These improvements will more effectively spend federal dollars to help our nation’s students acquire the skills that they need and that employers are demanding. We will continue to urge our delegation to move forward with this important work.


Health Innovation

The Chamber and CEO Council thank Members of our delegation for their support of the 21st Century Cures Act which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Cures Act  strengthens the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to accelerate the availability of new treatments for patients by removing the choke points that slow the connections between drug and device development and the approval process that make these life-improving and lifesaving therapies available to patients and their health care professionals.

The Chamber and CEO Council have long advocated for sustained growth in federal funding for basic and translational research by investing in our R&D universities as a way to drive innovation and economic growth.  Beyond traditional the funding approach, the Cures Act will also make critical added investments in health innovation through initiatives like the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot program, and the BRAIN Initiative.

Greater Philadelphia boasts top-rated academic and clinical research institutions, hospitals and health systems, as well as life sciences, biopharmaceutical, and information technology clusters. Exploiting this competitive advantage, further developing an environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, and collaborating across sectors, we will accelerate health care sector growth and strengthen the region’s competitive position.

Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Report

The Greater Philadelphia Region is positioned to lead the next stage of disruption within the spectrum of Life Sciences disciplines, thanks to its world-renowned research institutions, top biomedical programs, and a healthy ecosystem of small and large enterprises and investment activity, our new study shows. Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Report explores Greater Philadelphia’s Life Sciences footprint and investment activity over the last five years and details the key findings that characterize the sector’s evolution in the region.

The report details investments in Life Sciences companies from 2011 through the first half of 2016 and explores how the payoffs from those investments have been woven into the economic fabric of the region. It speaks to how the long-standing and continued importance of Life Sciences in the region is producing a broad range of sustainable employment opportunities and is increasing the importance of this sector to our export profile.

Report highlights include:

  • 1,200 establishments in the Life Sciences
  • Leadership in the fields of cell therapy, gene therapy and gene vaccines
  • 48,900 direct jobs
  • 6 medical schools (including 4 NCI-designated Cancer Centers) and 10 medical centers
  • $1B in NIH funding
  • >5,400 life science-related patents since 2010
  • $6.3B in investment in regional companies
  • $24.6B in real output (in constant 2010 dollars), 4% of the GPR’s total

Highly-Skilled Immigration Reform

As Congress endeavors to address multiple aspects of our immigration system, the CEO Council continues to call on Congress to adopt bipartisan highly-skilled immigration reformsHighly-educated workers help drive innovation, economic growth, and job creation, all of which are essential components for the region to remain competitive in the global economy.  The CEO Council urges Members of Congress to support the following bipartisan reforms:

  • Establish a market-based H-1B cap and increase the employment-based green card cap;
  • Exempt STEM graduates from U.S. universities from the annual employment-based visa cap if they have an offer of employment from a U.S. business in a related field;
  • Streamline and improve visa and green card application process;
  • Eliminate the employment-based per-country visa cap;
  • Use new company-paid visa and green card fees to help fund STEM programs in U.S. schools to train the next generation American workforce; and
  • Provide visas and green cards to startup entrepreneurs and advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree holders from U.S. universities.

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