Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro made his pitch to business leaders during a conversation with the governor event hosted by The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia at Villanova University on Tuesday night.
Shapiro touted his plan for easing the corporate tax burden statewide and his economic development plans.
“First off, I am competitive as hell, so I don’t want to lose out to any other states,” he said to an auditorium with dozens of attendees. “I made very clear, we are open for business. There’s so much good happening, we just need to make sure we connect the dots.”
The corporate tax rate in Pennsylvania is 8.99% but it’s slated to be cut to 4.99% by 2031.
Shapiro said he wants to accelerate the pace of the corporate tax cut to hit 4.99% by 2026 instead.
As of January, Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest corporate tax rate in the nation. Its corporate tax rate is higher than in California and New York but is still lower than New Jersey, Illinois, and Alaska.
“I like his thinking about the corporate taxes,” said Joan Roebuck-Carter, senior vice president of institutional advancement for the Mann Center for Performing Arts, after the event. “He’s looking at things you often hear Republicans talking about but here he is talking about it in a logical way.”
Shapiro said he sees opportunities to work with Republicans statewide especially on economic development efforts where the two parties may agree.
“I think Pennsylvanians showed when they elected me and others that they were rejecting extremism,” he said. “They wanted us to come together and get things done.”
That sentiment resonated with Joanna Kan, owner of Blue Story LLC, a design company in Montgomery County.
“I think the governor has been thinking strategically about the relationship between the two parties, especially if the two sides can work together,” Kan said.
In Philadelphia, the primary election is on May 16. Shapiro declined to support any mayoral candidate but instead promised to work with any mayor and is rooting for a Democrat to win the seat. But he said that Philadelphia is facing “unacceptable” levels of violence and contending with a lack of public school funding.
“I need a partner in Philadelphia that I can work with to address these challenges,” Shapiro said.
The state is expected to revamp the funding model for public schools which a court judge ruled recently was unconstitutional.
“There are too many students left behind,” he said.
Shapiro said the state expects to hash out a funding formula for public schools by 2024.
Attendee Roebuck-Carter said she was interested about the new funding models for public education and the concept of equity.
“For him to acknowledge that it’s unconstitutional and that he wants to do something about it is incredibly promising,” she said.
Alan Tofig, a senior vice president and wealth advisor for Truist in Montgomery County, echoed that sentiment.
Tofig said he was optimistic about the future under the Democratic governor and was especially interested in plans for education.
“We have a shortage of teachers, especially in urban schools,” Tofig said. “It’s critical because you can have all the money in the world but you need somebody to teach the kids. I would really love to see how he would be able to get teachers in the classrooms, reduce the size of classrooms and support high quality education. I’m very hopeful.”
Event moderator and ABC news anchor Matt O’Donnell asked the governor about whether the government should keep supporting public transportation that’s focused around commuters when office vacancy rates in Center City Philadelphia are still in the double digits since the coronavirus pandemic began three years ago.
“I don’t think just because ridership is down and because many people aren’t going into their traditional offices at the rate that they were back in 2019 is a reason to disinvest from SEPTA and other regional rails and other mass transit,” Shapiro said. “This is a moment when we need to invest again. But make sure we’re creating a downtown, livable space, walkable space, work in the space that’s attractive to more people in this kind of new world that we live in today.”