This year's resolution: Put Pennsylvania back to work
New Year's resolutions generally conjure up good intentions to lose weight, spend more time with family and friends or reorganize. But for millions of Americans, this year's resolutions are more urgent: Find a job. Make enough money to cover groceries and rent. Afford to send kids to college. Save for retirement.
It's the American Dream - but one that's slipping further and further out of reach for the middle class. As the state Legislature starts a new session, our lawmakers in Harrisburg have an opportunity to help Pennsylvanians keep their New Year's resolutions by coming together and making jobs a No. 1 priority.
The not so "Great" Recession officially ended in the summer of 2009, but with more than 13 million people unemployed, it's clear the struggle isn't over.
Over the last year, our country has continued to suffer through a jobs crisis unlike anything since the great depression. Communities all across the country are struggling with long-term joblessness. Nearly half of all unemployed workers have been without a job for more than six months. Nearly one in four young workers is unemployed. In Pennsylvania, over a half million workers are unemployed in any given month.
Yet too many of our elected leaders haven't shared this urgency. Our recovery remains threatened by irresponsible budget cuts in Congress, states, and cities across the nation. Record numbers of home foreclosures, high levels of consumer debt, and a weakened middle class also plague this nation.
But instead of stepping up to the plate with commonsense solutions to grow our economy, many politicians have harnessed the jobs crisis to pursue a political agenda that rewards the wealthy while demanding deep cuts for working people.
In Harrisburg, we are fighting cuts in public and higher education, cuts in public safety, privatization of public education, cuts in wages for building and construction workers, cuts in care for the elderly and disabled, and privatization of one of Pennsylvania's most valuable public assets - Pennsylvania's Wine and Spirits shops, which provide over 5,000 good family sustaining jobs for working people in this state.
You can't fight a recession by throwing more workers on the unemployment line. You can't improve economic growth and recovery by continuing to redistribute the wealth to the top 1 percent of America.
As the Legislature gets back to work, their first order of business should be passing transportation funding legislation to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.
Gov. Corbett's own experts put the bill at nearly $3 billion, which would just cover the most urgent and needed repairs to our bridges, roads, and mass transit systems.
If it is done right, this will be a real job creator for Pennsylvania. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed construction and manufacturing workers living here in Pennsylvania would be back to work in a matter of months.
Not only would this be an immediate boost to local economies, but improving our roads and bridges will make us even more productive and competitive in moving products and services to customers in the future. There is a reason we are called the Keystone State. Pennsylvania is the hub for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, and we should be taking more advantage of our position. It's a win/win for both labor and business.
The governor and the legislature should pass legislation that gives preference in government purchases and procurement to American/Pennsylvania made products and services. A Buy American/Buy Pennsylvania preference will ensure that public funds aren't spent on job creation in other nations when they should be spent protecting and creating jobs here.
And we need to reform our tax system to ensure corporations paying their fair share by closing tax loopholes and taxing the rich among us. Here in our State, it means a fair tax on Marcellus Shale extraction to pay for environmental protection, cleanup, and to help fund education and care for the elderly and disabled. It also means closing the corporate tax loopholes that are unfair to workers and small business owners who do pay their fair share.
We are asking our lawmakers to commit to a real jobs creation agenda in the New Year, not more phony attacks on workers that are cloaked or marketed as being job creators. It is time to make good on the promises made to Pennsylvania's working families in the last election. It is time to put Pennsylvania back to work!
(The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is a statewide labor federation with more than 800,000 union workers whom are members of labor unions affiliated with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.)