Op-Ed: Regulatory and Permitting Reform as a boost for Pennsylvania’s Economic Comeback

By Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33)

The timing has never been more right for regulatory and permitting reform in Pennsylvania as our small businesses and economy begin to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Throughout the four years of the Trump Administration, regulatory reform was a major objective. The Administration made it a priority to cut red tape, while maintaining critical protections for workers, public health, safety, and the environment.

In January 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulations and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” The order required Federal agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation issued (2-for-1) and created incremental regulatory cost caps.

The Council of Economic Advisers estimated that after 5 to 10 years, these new reforms to Federal regulation “will have raised real incomes by $3,100 per household per year by increasing choice, productivity, and competition.”

Onerous regulations have a particular impact on small business owners and their flexibility to hire future employees. Between 2012 and 2017, a plurality of small business owners (45%) surveyed monthly by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) selected “government requirements and red tape” (aka regulations) as their single most significant obstacle to growth.

Between 2016 and 2020, thanks in large part to regulatory reform on the federal level, Pennsylvania added 238,000 jobs and saw average wages across all occupations increase by 13.5%. 

There remains much work to be done to reform regulations at the state level. With over 153,000 regulations on the books, Pennsylvania has one of the most burdensome regulatory codes in the country. In a recent Forbes “Best States for Business Report,” Pennsylvania ranked 39th in “regulatory environment.”

Regulatory reform isn’t the only area where improvement is needed. PA’s current permit review process leaves much to be desired and needs improvement to accelerate new economic projects and job creation. I often hear from business owners throughout the state who ask: Why does it take so long to get a permit? Where does my permit stand? What is the holdup?

When you apply for a permit, you have a right to know where it is in the process and what is causing a delay or a denial.

Our current flawed permit review process has real world consequences. Just last month, US Steel announced it was pulling out of a $1.5 million project in southwest PA that would have created 1,000 jobs. “Permitting delays” was one of the main reasons cited for the decision as US steel dealt with over two years of these delays. 

During a Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting in April, we passed a package of bills to accelerate Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.

These included regulatory reform bills that allow the General Assembly to provide better legislative oversight of the regulatory review process, review and require approval for ALL regulations with a cost of over $1 billion, and prohibit the consideration or adoption of regulations during the existence of a disaster emergency, unless the action is directly related to responding to the disaster emergency.

We also moved out a bill to increase transparency in the permitting process. This bill would require all agencies to increase transparency and expedite the time it takes for review.

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need for a capable, effective. and efficient government that serves the public and regulated community. Pennsylvania needs policies that helps grow our economy without placing undue financial burdens, red tape, and compliance mazes on businesses.

I urge my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly pass these important regulatory and permitting reform measures.

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