Posts Tagged poll
Pennsylvania’s business climate remains sluggish as the commonwealth continues to struggle in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Business conditions, employment levels and sales have all backslid over the past six months with owners blaming high taxes, government regulation and a lack of skilled workers for the malaise.
The Fall 2016 Keystone Business Climate Survey conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research found half of the business owners and chief executive officers survey saying the state’s economy has gotten worse over the past six months, only five percent felt Pennsylvania’s business climate had improved during that time frame.
Comparatively, one year ago 42% felt the business climate had gotten worse, while six percent at that time said it had improved. There is little optimism that business conditions will improve soon. Forty-four percent say they expect the state’s economy to continue getting worse over the upcoming six months, five percent expect to see an improvement in the business climate.
Along with that pessimistic overall prognosis twice as many businesses report having reduced their workforce as say they have added jobs. The majority of businesses – 66% – reported that employment levels remained about the same over the past six months. But, 21% said they have reduced their employee compliment while 11% added employees. The picture improves slightly as the owners/CEOs look ahead to the coming six months. Sixteen percent say they plan to add employees, 12% expect to reduce their workforce.
Sales have also taken a hit over the past six months. Thirty-nine percent said their sales remained about the same from March thru September. But, 39% reported decreased sales and were off-set by only 21% having reported sales increases. Looking forward, 51% expect sales to remain stable. Twenty-Four percent forecast an increase in sales, 23% are braced for a sales decrease.
Factors Impacting Business Growth
Among the factors cited by businesses for why they considered expanding their businesses over the past two years, but decided against expansion taxes and regulation topped the list of barriers. Onerous federal regulations were cited by 41% of the businesses that considered, but rejected, expansion plans. Coming in a close second was Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed tax increases cited by 40% as a reason why they did not expand. Pennsylvania’s tax structure was listed by 29% as having frustrated expansion plans.
Thirty-six percent cited onerous state regulations as a barrier to expansion, while another 35% cited the lack of a skilled work force. Nearly half of the businesses surveyed said they currently have open positions for which they have been unable to find qualified applicants. Forty-two percent say they have been unable to fill one to five jobs; 2% have six to ten open positions; one percent has more than ten jobs unfilled due to lack of qualified applicants.
Pennsylvania fiscal condition continues to be of concern to the business owners and CEOs participating in the Fall 2016 Keystone Business Climate Survey. Eighty-five percent disagreed – 70% strongly so – with Republicans in the General Assembly having agreed to a $1.4 billion spending increase and then raising taxes to enact the current year’s state budget.
Looking ahead to what will likely be another epic budget battle next summer, 92% say the General Assembly must address cost drivers such as pension reform before considering an increase in taxes. In fact, 34% said the state’s massive unfunded pension liability has caused them to not consider expanding in Pennsylvania.
Among pension reforms being considered is moving state employees from the current defined benefit pension system to a defined contribution plan. Thirty-nine percent of the businesses surveyed said they offer employees a company administered defined contribution plan to which the company contributes. Only 3% of the private businesses surveyed continue to offer a defined pension plan. Another 40% offer employees no retirement plans at all.
Earlier this year the General Assembly did pass, and Governor Tom Wolf signed into law, some modest changes to the state’s century-old liquor laws. Business owners/CEOs said those reforms did not go far enough. Fifty-two percent would like for the state to completely privatize both retail sales and wholesale distribution of alcoholic products. Another 26% would like to see just retail sales privatized. Twelve percent said the recent changes were sufficient.
Pennsylvania has an abundant supply of natural gas, but additional pipelines are needed to get that gas to market. Eight-nine percent agree – 60% strongly agree – that this resource should be developed and more pipelines built. Nine percent disagree. Twenty-five percent said easier access to natural gas would be a benefit to their business with an additional 14% saying it would be a major benefit. Thirty percent said they do not utilize natural gas in their business.
Over the past nine years since the passage of Act 44 the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has diverted $5.2 billion to PennDOT to help pay for state highways and public transit. This has resulted in annual fare increases for turnpike travelers. Sixty-three percent of those participating in the Fall 2016 Keystone Business Climate Survey said this should end and fare revenue be used only to maintain and improve the turnpike. Twenty-nine percent felt the sharing of revenue should continue.
Job Approval Ratings
President Barack Obama and Governor Tom Wolf continue to suffer from significantly low job approval ratings among the business community. Eighty-four percent have a negative view of the President’s job performance; 86% disapprove of the job being done by Governor Wolf.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, who faces re-election in November, received a 50% job approval rating against 23% with a negative view of his job performance. The job being done by U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. is viewed negatively by 56% of the business owners/CEOs, 18% give him positive marks. Likewise, 54% say Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is doing a poor job, 15% approve.
Pennsylvania has three statewide constitutional or “row” offices. Two are serving by appointment, their elected predecessors having resigned after being convicted of crimes. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is the surviving official elected in 2012 still in office. Seventy-three percent have no opinion of his job performance, with 14% saying he is doing a good job and 14% having a negative opinion of his job performance. Likewise about two-thirds offered no opinions on state Treasurer Tim Reese or Attorney General Bruce Beemer. Of those who did, 18% give Beemer a negative rating, 6% a positive one while 15% hold a negative view of Reese, 5% a positive view.
As has been the case throughout the Keystone Business Climate Survey’s 22-year history the owners and chief executive officers hold the federal congress and the state legislature in very low regard. Just 8% approve of the job being done by the United States Senate, 11% approve of the job being done by the U.S. House of Representatives. Seventeen percent approve of the job performance of the Pennsylvania Senate; 19% approve of the job being done by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Finally, the Lincoln Institute asked participants in the survey who they support for President of the United States and United State Senator from Pennsylvania in the upcoming November General Election. Seventy-three percent said they will vote for the Republican nominee Donald Trump, 12% support the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and 6% say they will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Republican incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey has the support of 81% of the owners/CEOs, Democratic challenger Katie McGinty has 12% support.
The Fall 2016 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. from September 13 through October 5, 2016. A total of 370 businesses responded to the survey invitation. Of those 81% are the owner of the business, 14% are the CEO/COO/CFO and one percent a business manager.
Twenty-five percent of the responses came from the Philadelphia/southeastern part of the state; 18% from Pittsburgh/southwestern Pennsylvania; 16% from south/central Pennsylvania; 13% from northwestern Pennsylvania; 11% from northeastern Pennsylvania; 10% from north-central Pennsylvania; 4% from the Lehigh Valley and 3% from the Altoona/Johnstown area.
Complete numeric results are posted on-line at http://www.lincolninstitute.org
Radio Program Schedule for the week of May 9, 2015 – May 15, 2015
This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:
- Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
- David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association is joined by Kevin Shivers and Neal Lesher from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business for a Capitol Watch look at results of the Lincoln Institute’s Spring 2015 Keystone Business Climate Survey
- Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on the epic failure of liberal public policy in Baltimore
This week on American Radio Journal:
- Lowman Henry talks with Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute about the impact on student achievement of closing under-performing schools
- Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on Mike Huckabee’s record as Arkansas Governor
- Eric Boehm and Katie Watson have a Watchdog Radio Report on using cigarette taxes to close state and local budget deficits
- Lowman Henry has an American Radio Journal commentary on the epic failure of liberal policies in Baltimore
Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!
Wolf Budget Proposals Deeply Unpopular Among Business Owners/CEOs
After nudging into positive territory last October for the first time since 2004, the outlook of Pennsylvania business owners and Chief Executive Officers has turned sharply negative in the wake of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposals. Every component of the governor’s proposed budget “reforms” received a sharply negative response from the state’s job creators in the Lincoln Institute’s Spring 2015 Keystone Business Climate Survey.
Four years of business friendly policies implemented by the administration of former Governor Tom Corbett created a positive outlook from business owners and CEOs for the first time since George W. Bush was still in his first term. Albeit slight, in October 2014, 19% of the business leaders said the state’s economic conditions had improved during the preceding six months, while 18% felt they had gotten worse. Six months later, the picture has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. The Spring 2015 survey found 33% of the owners/CEOs responding that business conditions have gotten worse over the past six months, only 13% say business conditions have improved. Pessimism for the future has deepened, as 44% say they expect the state’s business climate to get worse over the coming six months while just 12% expect the Pennsylvania economy to improve.
Driving the dour mood among the people who actually run businesses – big and small – is a general disapproval of Governor Tom Wolfe’s budget proposals. A total of 78% disapprove of his proposed budget, with 60% saying they strongly disapprove. Just 17% gave the governor a thumbs-up; and only 6% strongly approve of his proposed fiscal policies. Overall, 80% say the governor’s proposed state budget will harm Pennsylvania’s business climate – 56% say it will do significant harm – while 14% think his proposals will improve the state’s business climate.
The state’s job creators are bracing themselves for higher taxes. As a side note, Pennsylvania’s high tax rates and stringent regulatory policies are viewed by the owners/CEOs as the biggest impediments to conducting business in Pennsylvania. They now fear that situation is about to get worse. Seventy-two percent say the proposed Wolf Administration changes to the state’s tax structure will result in them paying higher taxes, 36% say they expect to pay significantly higher taxes. Only 3% expect their taxes to drop if the Wolf agenda is enacted, while 13% say they expect to pay about the same amount in taxes. Another 11% don’t yet have enough information to render an opinion.
Cutting the state’s onerous Corporate Net Income Tax (CNI) and eliminating the double taxation brought on by the Capital Stock & Franchise Tax have long been goals of business advocacy groups in Pennsylvania, but the Wolf Administration plan of coupling those cuts with other tax law changes creating a net increase in business taxes has business owners/CEOs opposing the entire proposed package. Sixty-two percent disapprove of the governor’s proposed business tax plan, 25% voiced approval.
And that was the high point for the governor. Other proposed changes drew even stronger opposition from the business community. His proposal to increase the state’s sales tax from 6% to 6.6% and to apply the sales tax to a wide array of products and services not currently subject to sales tax drew opposition from three-quarters (75%) of the respondents with 61% expressing strong disapproval. Twenty-four percent agreed with the proposed sale tax hike.
Raise the personal income tax rate from 3.07% to 3.7%? Eighty-three percent of respondents to theSpring 2015 Keystone Business Climate Survey said they disapprove, 70% voiced strong disapproval. Sixteen percent approve of hiking the personal income tax (PIT) rate.
There is also deep suspicion over the governor’s plan to have the state pay a larger share of public education costs (with revenue from a higher and broader sales tax) and allow local school districts to decrease property taxes. Seventy percent say any drop in property taxes will be temporary, and then property taxes will rise again. Less than 2% say they expect a significant property tax cut as a result of that proposal while 13% say they might realize a slight reduction in property taxes. That is offset by the 14% who expect to pay higher property taxes.
Respondents to the survey also now oppose adding a tax on companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. In the Fall 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey 51% approved of an extraction tax. Support for that tax dropped to 45% in the current poll, while opposition rose from 44% last Fall to 50% in the current survey.
Overall, Governor Tom Wolf has proposed a state budget that would add $4.6 billion in increased spending to the state’s current $29.4 billion budget. By a wide margin, business owners/CEOs say that is too much. Eighty-four percent say his spending increases are too high; 11% think they are about right; and just 1% think they are too low.
Government regulation is cited as the biggest barrier to job creation by 64% of the business owners/CEOs participating in the Lincoln Institute’s survey. That factor is driving the negative mood of job creators in that two of the most aggressive regulators in recent state history now serve as Governor Tom Wolf’s chief of staff and top policy advisor. Thirty-six percent cited corporate taxation as a barrier to job creation while, 43% blame national economic factors.
Employment levels remained stable over the past six months. Eighteen percent of the owners/CEOs said they employ fewer people, while 16% said they have increased employment. Sixty-three percent reported employing the same number of individuals. Looking ahead six months, 18% say they plan to add employees, 13% expect to employ fewer people. Sales decreased at 32% of the companies participating in the survey, but increased at 28%. Looking ahead 35% forecast rising sales, 18% are projecting a drop.
Job Approval Ratings
Governor Tom Wolf received a strongly negative job approval rating in his first appearance in theKeystone Business Climate Survey. Sixty-nine percent disapprove of the job the governor is doing, while 14% approve. Only President Barack Obama fared worse among the business owners/CEOs, 87% disapprove of the Presidential job performance with 10% voicing approval.
U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. likewise finds himself deep in negative territory as 64% disapprove of his performance in office while 14% approve. U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey fared better, with a 51% job approval rating against a 23% negative rating. Toomey was the only federal official in positive territory. The owners/CEOs also approve of the job being done by new Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen, 41% approve to 26% disapprove. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew drew an 8% approve against 44% who disapprove of the job he is doing.
The legal problems and controversies surrounding Attorney General Kathleen Kane have taken a toll on her standing among the state’s business leaders. Her negative rating jumped from 49% in the Fall 2014 survey to 62% in the current poll. Conversely, her positive rating dropped from 16% six months ago to just 7% in the current survey. Even state Auditor General Eugene Depasquale, the only statewide constitutional officer to avoid scandal, finds himself in negative territory – as 21% disapprove of his performance in office, while 13% approve. But, 65% offered no opinion.
Legislative bodies at both the state and federal levels continue to be unpopular. Just 11% approve of the job being done by the U.S. Senate, 79% disapprove. The U.S. House of Representatives earned a 20% approval rating with 71% voicing disapproval. The Pennsylvania Senate is viewed positively by 26% of respondents, and 56% disapprove. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives fared best among the legislative chambers, with a 28% approval rating against a 55% disapproval number.
The Spring 2015 Pennsylvania Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. between April 1 and April 28, 2015. A total of 351 responses were collected. Of those, 83% were from the owner of a business, 14% from the CEO/COO/CFO. Less than 2% were from a state or local manager of a business.
Geographically, 27% of the respondents were from southeastern Pennsylvania; 18% from southwestern Pennsylvania; 19% from south central Pennsylvania; 11% from northeastern Pennsylvania; 9% from the northwestern portion of the state; 9% from north central Pennsylvania; 4% from Altoona/Johnstown and 4% from the Lehigh Valley.
Complete numeric results of the poll are available at www.lincolninstitute.org.
For the first time in a decade, by a narrow margin, more Pennsylvania employers say business conditions in the commonwealth are improving than say the state’s economy is getting worse. But, that optimism is tempered by a lack of job creation and lower wage hikes due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
George W. Bush was president and on the verge of re-election in 2004, the last time respondents to the Lincoln Institute’s Keystone Business Climate Survey thought the business climate was getting better rather than worse. Since then the nation has experienced the Great Recession and subsequent slow recovery.
But, the current survey finds 20% of the business owners and CEOs responding say over the past six months business conditions in Pennsylvania have gotten better, while 19% say the state’s economy has gotten worse. By comparison, one year ago 31% felt business conditions had gotten worse and just 14% saw an improvement.
There is not, however, optimism for the immediate future. Looking ahead six months, 27% expect business conditions in Pennsylvania to get worse, while 16% expect conditions to get better.
Driving the current burst of optimism are increasing sales. Thirty-six percent of the companies said sales have increased over the past six months as 24% reported decreased sales. Looking ahead, 32% project sales will increase, 13% expect sales to drop.
Employment levels dropped over the past six months, with 20% reporting higher employment and 24% saying employment at their business has decreased. Looking ahead six months, 21% project adding employees, while 9% plan to employ fewer workers.
Impact of the Affordable Care Act
It is clear the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is having a negative impact on both the number of jobs that are being created, and on wages and pay hikes. Twenty-five percent of the business leaders participating in the survey said they have decided not to hire additional employees due to the requirements of Obamacare. Ten percent said they have actually reduced the number of employees because of ACA; while another 3% said they hired, but did so later than they had planned. Less than 1% said they hired sooner than planned because of Obamacare. Fifty-eight percent said ACA has had no impact on their hiring plans.
In terms of wages/salaries, 33% said they have delayed giving pay raises due to the costs of Obamacare. Twenty-eight percent indicated they reduced the amounts of pay raises, while 26% said they paid new hires less to compensate for the costs associated with compliance of the Affordable Care Act. Five percent reduced the pay of current employees, while 2% said they increased employee pay in response to ACA requirements. A total of 42% said Obamacare has no impact on their wages/salaries.
Education spending has been a major issue in the gubernatorial campaign. But, unlike the electorate at-large, business owners and CEOs participating in the Fall 2014 Keystone Business Climate Surveysay the state spends too much money on public education. Forty percent think state government spend too much on public education, 29% say the state spends too little, while 27% say state spending on public education is about the right amount.
By a large margin, 78% to 19%, the employers say they are not willing to pay higher taxes to provide additional funding to public education. There is, however, strong support for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) which businesses can claim for donating money to K-12 educational institutions. Forty-seven percent think the General Assembly should allocate more month to the tax credit fund so more businesses can participate; 36% say the fund should be kept at current levels.
Taxes have also been a major campaign issue in 2014. When asked whether Pennsylvania should retain the current “flat” income tax or move to a “graduated” income tax where low income earners are exempt and higher income earners pay a higher rate 84% said they support the current “flat” income tax, 14% would like to see a “graduated” rate.
A proposal to exempt the first $30,000 from state income taxes and raise the rate for money earned above that level from 3.07% to 5% drew strong opposition from the business leaders. Seventy-three percent oppose such a system with 60% saying they are strongly opposed. Twenty-three percent said they would support such a change.
Mandating paid sick leave for employees was opposed by three-quarters of the business owners and CEOs who participated in the Lincoln Institute survey. Seventeen percent said they would support mandating paid sick leave for businesses with over 50 employees. Another 6% support mandating paid sick leave for all businesses regardless of size.
Job Approval Ratings
Mirroring the national trend, President Obama received a highly negative job approval rating from the business owners and CEOs. Eighty-five percent voiced a negative view of the president, while 13% offered a positive assessment.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey is viewed favorably by 51% of the survey participants while 24% have a negative view. The numbers reverse for U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. as 60% offered a negative view of his job performance against a 21% positive rating. Fed Chairman Janet Yellen received a 38% negative / 28% positive rating; and, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew scored a 42% negative / 8% positive.
At the state level Governor Tom Corbett sports a 52% positive rating while 35% disapprove of the job being done by the Republican governor. The CEOs and business owners turned thumbs down on Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who received a 49% negative rating against just 16% positive. Most offered no opinion on the job performance of Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and State Treasurer Rob McCord. Of those who did, Depasquale had a 20% negative / 11% positive rating and McCord scored 21% negative / 17% positive.
Participants in the Fall 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey took a dim view of the job being done by both Congress and by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Eighty-nine percent offered a negative assessment of the U.S. Senate, with 7% having a positive view. The U.S. House of Representatives fared slightly better scoring a 72% negative / 22% positive rating. Sixty-three percent have a negative view of the job being done by the Pennsylvania Senate, 19% approve. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives turned in a marginally higher score, with a 62% negative / 23% positive rating.
And, Governor Tom Corbett finally came out ahead in one poll. Sixty-five percent of the business owners and CEOs said they plan to vote for the incumbent governor in the November 4th General Election, 20% say they will cast their ballot for Democratic challenger Tom Wolf. However, 53% expect Wolf to win the election, while 29% predict a Corbett victory.
The Lincoln Institute’s 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically from September 26, 2014 through October 17, 2014. A total of 316 responses were received. Of those, 69% are the owner of their business, 24% are the CEO/COO or CFO, another 4% are a state or local manager. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents are located in southeastern Pennsylvania, 18% in southwestern Pennsylvania, 14% in the northwest section of the state, 17% in south-central Pennsylvania, 11% in northeastern Pennsylvania, 6% in the Lehigh Valley, six percent in north-central Pennsylvania and 1% in the Altoona/Johnstown area. Complete numeric results are available at www.lincolninstitute.org.
The Great Recession has given way to a not-so-great recovery as Chief Executive Officers and business owners from across Pennsylvania say that over the past six months economic conditions have at best remained sluggish; and in many cases have worsened. Among the contributing factors is the uncertainty and cost surrounding implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and a state government that appears unable to arrive at consensus on many of the most pressing problems facing the commonwealth.
Those were the key findings of the Fall 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. Confusion and concern surrounding implementation of Obamacare have 78% of the business leaders responding expecting an increase in employee health care costs. Conversely, only three percent actually expect the Affordable Health Care Act to be more affordable. As a result of Obamacare, 21% of the companies participating in the poll said they have increased employee co-pay; 15% have reduced their number of employees; 15% have raised their prices; 11% have cut staff hours and 7% have discontinued providing employees with health care coverage.
Three-quarters of the respondents say Obamacare should be entirely repealed, while another 10% support delaying implementation. Eleven percent said the act should be implemented as scheduled. The intensity of opinion surrounding Obamacare is so strong that 69% of the CEOs/owners support congress voting to defund the Affordable Health Care Act even if it triggers a general shut-down of the federal government.
Business Climate Worsens
Not only is the economy not improving, the Lincoln Institute survey found by over a two-to-one margin the business chieftains said the state’s business climate has gotten worse over the past six months. Thirty-one percent indicated business conditions are worse, while 14% say it has improved; 55% say the economic climate has remained about the same. Looking ahead six months 30% expect business conditions to continue deteriorating; 15% expect conditions to improve.
All of this adds up to bad news on the employment front. Twenty-seven percent reported employment levels at their company are lower than they were six months ago, 18% have increased their number of employees. Employment levels remained constant at 55% of the businesses participating in the survey. Looking ahead six months the state’s employment picture is expected to remain static. Sixty-seven percent anticipate employment numbers remaining the same; 16% expect to have more employees, 16% forecast having fewer employees.
Sales are down at 38% of the companies surveyed, and up at 29%. This is an improvement from the Spring survey when only 17% reported increased sales and 46% said sales were down. There is some optimism that sales will continue to improve modestly over the coming six months: 31% expect sales increases while 21% expect sales to decline.
Job Performance Ratings
The Lincoln Institute’s Fall 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey revealed profound disapproval of the job being done by elected officials at both the state and national levels. The only elected officials with higher positives than negatives are U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and Governor Tom Corbett – and their positive job approval numbers are down significantly from the Spring survey.
Scoring the highest disapproval rating was President Barack Obama who got a thumbs down from 86% of the CEOs/owners polled; only 9% gave the president a positive job approval rating. Fifty-two percent disapprove of the job being down by outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke; 23% approve. U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.’s positive job approval among the business leaders stands at 14%; 62% disapprove. As for U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey, 45% approve of the job he is doing while 26% disapprove. However, Toomey’s positive rating is down 13% since the Spring survey when 58% approved of the job he is doing in Washington, D.C.
At the state level, 43% of the business leaders participating in the survey approve of the job being done by Governor Tom Corbett, 42% disapprove. That is a seven percent erosion from the governor’s Spring rating when 50% approved of his job performance and 32% disapproved. Among the three statewide constitutional or “row” officers, only Attorney General Kathleen Kane drew strong opinions. Forty-five percent disapprove of her job performance while 17% approve. State Treasurer Rob McCord registered a 13% negative rating against a 6% positive rating; but 81% offered no opinion of his job performance. Likewise, 78% had no opinion of the job performance of state Auditor General Eugene Depasquale. Of those that did, 17% disapprove of his performance in office; 5% approve.
Business CEOs/owners also disapprove of the job being done by congress and by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Ninety percent voiced a negative opinion of the U.S. Senate, only 4% offered a positive assessment. Seventy-six percent disapprove of the job being done by the U.S. House of Representatives; 18% approve. State government fared a bit better. Sixty percent offered a negative view of the job being done by the state Senate, 17% approve. Fifty-six percent disapprove of the performance of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 20% approve.
State Policy Issues
The collapse of Governor Tom Corbett’s legislative agenda at the end of the Spring session resulted in considerable finger pointing over who was to blame. The Lincoln Institute’s 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey found more blame assigned to the legislature than to the governor. Fifty-seven percent said the state Senate is to blame for the failure of the governor’s agenda; 56% blame the state House. The governor himself is blamed by 43% of the respondents. Going forward, 45% expect there will be action on transportation funding as the Fall legislative session gets underway. Thirty-seven percent think the General Assembly will act on pension reform, 35% expect movement on privatizing the state’s liquor stores.
In terms of transportation funding, 80% report there have been no disruptions to their business as a result of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation placing weight limits on a number of bridges due to structural deficiencies. However, 11% report having to adjust delivery routes and 7% have had shipping and/or deliveries disrupted. Six percent report that employee commutes have been affected. To fund repairs to state roads and bridges, 59% of the CEOs/business owners surveyed said they favor shift money from other parts of the state budget; 57% support diverting funds from low priority projects. Twenty-six percent support raising license and/or registration fees; 12% say taxes should be increased. Another 20% want to hold transportation spending at current levels.
There is a carve out in current state law that permits labor unions and businesses to stalk, harass, or threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction during a labor dispute. Eighty-four percent of the business leaders said they disapprove of this carve out, 80% strongly disapprove. Three percent said they agree with the carve out, while 13% offered no opinion.
Current law allows governmental entities (state, counties, school districts & municipalities) to deduct labor union dues and PAC (Political Action Committee) contributions from employee paychecks and turn over the proceeds to unions. Eighty-nine percent of those participating in the 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey disapprove of the practice and say unions should collect their own dues. Three percent support the practice.
As the debate continues over reforming Pennsylvania’s public employee pension systems, 85% of the business CEOs/owners said state government should transition to a defined contributions system. Four percent favor retaining the current defined benefits system.
The Lincoln Institute’s Fall 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically from September 9, 2013 through September 23, 2013. A total of 306 business leaders responded of which 78% were the owner of the company, 17% work as a CEO/COO/CFO; 2% are a local manger and 1% a state manager. Results included a representative sample from all geographic regions of Pennsylvania. Complete numeric results of the poll are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org
By Lowman S. Henry
State government is facing another difficult budget, a critical junction in the liquor privatization debate, a looming pension crisis along with crumbling roads and bridges. So it provided a bit of comic relief at a recent gathering of the Pennsylvania Press Club when Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati was asked to comment on state regulations regarding feral swine. This had nothing to do with the public’s apparent view of government, but rather the concerns of agri-business in the senator’s rural home district.
For his part, the top senate Republican sought to deflect attention from current pressing issues by talking about the past. In his prepared remarks Senator Scarnati lauded the success of the state’s approach to acquiring more revenue from drillers in the Marcellus Shale gas region. A new law requiring an impact fee (a euphemism for additional taxes) seems to have struck a delicate balance between obtaining that revenue while not making continued development of the resource unprofitable.
To some degree the senator is correct about the success of the legislation. Nobody is really happy about the law, but everyone can live with it. Energy companies are now paying a tax not required of other businesses in the state, but there is a general feeling within the industry that it could have been much worse. The spending interests got additional revenue, although they feel the energy companies should pay more. Townships got financial help in dealing with the impact on infrastructure of gas development, but ceded – perhaps unconstitutionally – some of their zoning power to the state.
Senator Scarnati told the assembled media that it took two years for the state to “get it right” on Marcellus Shale, and that it shouldn’t be expected to do the same on liquor privatization in just a few weeks. He was referring to Governor Tom Corbett’s desire to accomplish reform of the state’s Soviet-style liquor system by the end of June. The senator, however, was engaged in spin. The current liquor debate began years ago when House Republican Leader Mike Turzai assumed his leadership post and pronounced it his top goal. Incoming Governor Corbett stated the same. Thus, the senate has had two and a half years to gear up for a vote on the issue.
Turzai accomplished one of the greatest legislative feats in recent state history by getting a reasonable liquor reform bill through the House. It has landed in the lap of senate Republicans who view it as the political equivalent of Kryptonite. And they have good reason to be wary. Liquor privatization has overwhelming public support and is a top priority of a governor badly in need of a political win. If Senate Republicans kill the bill, they will – despite Senator Scarnati’s assertion to the contrary – seriously wound the governor politically, alienate House leaders who they need to pass their own legislative agenda, and – worst of all – offend a large section of the electorate.
Adding to the political significance of the situation is the fact Republicans lost three state senate seats in 2012 and now hold just 27 seats in a 50-seat chamber. With all southeastern Pennsylvania GOP senators except Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi up for re-election next year the long standing senate Republican majority is in jeopardy.
The counterweight to liquor reform is, of course, the public sector labor unions. Many of the senators up for re-election next year have been heavily supported by those unions. Thus, on this issue, they find themselves torn among their constituencies. Nobody is on the hot seat more than Senator Charles McIlhinney of Bucks County. He chairs the Law and Justice Committee which is holding hearings on the bill. As such, he wields considerable influence over the outcome of the liquor debate. Internal Bucks County politics, including the fact one of the senator’s biggest supporters owns a major beer distributorship, has complicated the situation further.
This much is clear: liquor privatization will be a career defining – perhaps career ending – vote for some Republican senators. A failure to pass a bill that tops the legislative agenda of both the Governor and the House Republican Leader could be the equivalent of pulling the bottom card out of a house of cards. Failure on liquor reform will hurt the governor’s re-election chances; poison the well for legislative cooperation on other issues; alienate voters and perhaps bring about a crushing GOP defeat at the polls next November.
There could hardly be more riding on the outcome of this debate. Not just for senate Republicans, but for Governor Tom Corbett, the Republican Party and for the people of Pennsylvania who would like to see their prohibition-era system of wine & spirits sales finally brought into the 21st Century.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.)
Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.
Although many key economic indicators are pointing to a slowly improving economy, employers in Pennsylvania say – at best – the state’s business climate is stagnant. More report lower employment levels than increased levels; and more businesses say over the past six months sales have declined rather than increased. Looking ahead six months, there is little expectation for a significant improvement in economic conditions.
Results of the Spring 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey of business owners and Chief Executive Officers found by a two-to-one margin they say business conditions in the state have gotten worse over the past six months rather than better. Thirty-five percent said that business conditions in Pennsylvania have gotten worse, 17% say they have improved, 47% said business conditions remained about the same. Those numbers track almost exactly results of the 2012 Spring survey indicating the state’s economy has made little progress over the past year. Looking ahead, 33% expect business conditions to get worse, 19% say they expect some improvement, 47% expect conditions to remain about the same.
The business leaders surveyed continue to report declining employment levels. Twenty-seven percent said employment levels at their company are lower than six months ago, while 9% report having more employees. Sixty-two percent say their employment levels have remained about the same. The employment picture is worse than a year ago when 13% of the employers said they have increased their employee compliments and 20% reported a decrease. Looking ahead, 15% say they expect to increase the number of employees at their business, 17% are planning on a workforce reduction. Sixty-five percent say employment to remain about the same.
Sales are another area of concern. Forty-seven percent of the CEOs responding to the Lincoln Institute survey said sales have dropped over the past six months, while 17% reported an increase in sales. Another 36% said sales have remained steady. These numbers are considerably more negative than those reported last spring when 35% reported decreased sales and 28% reported a sales upswing. Looking ahead there is a bit of optimism: 27% expect sales to increase while 19% forecast declining sales.
Job Approval Ratings
President Barack Obama continues to be highly unpopular among Pennsylvania’s business leaders. Twelve percent offered a positive view of his job performance, while 84% disapproved. The job approval rating of Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators are going in opposite directions. U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s positive job approval jumped from 47% last spring to 58% in the current survey, while his negative rating dropped from 23% last year to 19% this year. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.’s negative rating increased from 62% last spring to 69% this year. His positive job approval also increased from 11% last spring to 14% in the current poll.
At the state level, Governor Tom Corbett’s job approval rating remains steady. Fifty percent give him positive reviews, up from 48% last year. His current negative number is 32%, exactly where it was one year ago. Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s first job approval test resulted in a 21% positive – 28% negative rating. New Auditor General Eugene Depasquale’s inaugural numbers found a 9% positive – 14% negative rating. State Treasurer Rob McCord weighed in with a 13% positive – 14% negative rating.
As for legislative bodies, respondents to the survey gave the U.S. Senate a 95% negative rating with only 3% having a positive view of the upper chamber. Seventy-one percent hold a negative view of the U.S. House of Representatives while 23% give them a positive rating. At the state level, approval of the job being done by the House of Representatives has increased over the past year: 32% now approve of the state House up from 20% last Spring, but 48% hold a negative view of that chamber. Fifty-four percent disapprove of the job being done by the Pennsylvania Senate, while 25% approve.
Governor Tom Corbett has outlined an ambitious legislative agenda, with privatization of the state’s monopoly liquor stores at the top of the list. The business owners and Chief Executive Officers responding to the Lincoln Institute’s Spring 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey are in strong agreement with the governor that the time for privatization has arrived. Eighty-five percent indicated their support of ending the liquor monopoly and placing distribution and retail sales of shine and spirits into private hands. Of that number, 65% said they “strongly approve” of the Corbett plan. Twelve percent expressed their opposition.
Support for the governor’s other privatization plan, that to remove administrative operations of the Pennsylvania Lottery from government employees and place them into private hands received less support, but 53% did agree with privatizing lottery operations. Twenty-eight percent expressed opposition and 19% offered no opinion.
The controversial decision by Governor Corbett to not set up a state-based Medicaid health care exchange under provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) drew support from 65% of the business leaders polled with 25% in disagreement and ten percent offering no opinion. To date, 62% said they have had to take no steps to comply with provisions of the act, while 15% reported having to increase employee co-pay to cover additional costs; 10% have cut staff or reduced hours; 8% have raised their prices and 5% have discontinued offering health care coverage to their employees.
A number of public employee retirement systems, ranging from those covering state employees to school districts and municipalities, are projected to experience a significant shortfall in funding in the near future. To deal with that, respondents to the Lincoln Institute survey said governments should require higher employee contributions (77%), cut benefits to retirees (57%), divert spending from other areas to cover the shortfall (25%), or raise taxes to cover the shortfall (4%). Eight percent suggested all of the above mentioned steps should be taken to deal with the problem.
Governor Corbett has proposed lifting the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax to raise additional state revenue for spending on transportation infrastructure improvements including roads and bridges. Fifty-seven percent of the business owners/CEOs said they agree with that idea while 38% disagree. But, when asked if lifting that cap would result in an increase of the cost of gasoline at the pump of over 20 cents per gallon, support for the plan dropped to 28% while opposition increased to 69%. Of that 69% who disagreed, 47% expressed strong disagreement.
To provide additional funding for infrastructure, eighty-eight percent said the state should cut administrative overhead; 45% opined that spending in other areas should be cut and diverted to transportation; 30% would raise driver license renewal feels; 19% would raise gasoline taxes and 5% would raise general fund taxes. Fifteen percent said the funding crisis is overblown and no additional funds are needed.
As the governor and the general assembly work toward adoption of a 2013-2014 state budget, 56% of the business leaders participating in the Spring 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey said state spending is too high and spending levels should be cut further. Thirty-seven percent said the current levels of spending are appropriate while 4% suggested state government should increase taxes and spending.
In the debate over enactment of additional restrictions on the sale and purchase of firearms 31% said they would support additional restrictions, with 11% saying they strongly support additional restrictions. But, 68% said they oppose the placement of additional restrictions on the sale and purchase of firearms with 50% being in strong opposition to such additional restrictions.
Automatic federal spending cuts, official known as sequestration, took effect the beginning of March. Eighty percent of the businesses said the federal spending cuts have had no impact on their business. Twelve percent indicated sequestration had negatively impacted their business while 3% said the cuts have had a positive impact.
There has been much discussion and debate over the rising national debt. Ninety percent of the business owners/CEOs said the rising national debt will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy with 77% predicting a significantly negative impact. Five percent suggested the rising national debt will have a positive impact on the economy while 4% predict no impact at all.
The Spring 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. from March 8, 2013 through April 5, 2013. A total of 260 business leaders participated in the electronic survey. Of that number 80% were the owner of the business; 15% serve as CEO/COO/CFO; 2% are a local manager and 1% a state manager. Complete numeric results are available at www.lincolninstitute.org.
Radio Program Schedule for the week of February 9, 2013 – February 15, 2013
This week on American Radio Journal:
- Lowman Henry talks with David Pasch of Generation Opportunity about high unemployment among 18-29 year olds
- Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind the dust-up between the mainstream Crossroads PAC and conservative groups
- Adam Tragone and Neil McCabe of Human Events have an Off the Cuff talk about the latest immigration reform proposals
- Col. Frank Ryan, USMC (Retired) has an American Radio Journal commentary on greed
This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:
- Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
- Lowman Henry has a Newsmaker interview with Allison Harden from ROC Exposed about the labor front group Restaurant Opportunities Center
- Eric Montarti and Frank Gamrat have an Allegheny Institute Report on the cost and benefits of municipal government
- Jennifer Stefano talks about privatizing the state’s liquor store in her Stefano Speaks commentary
Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!