PHILADELPHIA – October 10, 2023 – State Senators Steve Santarsiero (D-10), Tina Tartaglione (D-2), Jimmy Dillon (D-5) and John Kane (D-9), and representatives from the building trades announced Build Better PA, a package of bills to promote fairness, quality, and skilled craftsmanship within the tax incentive programs designed to stimulate economic growth.
“Union labor means quality work done right the first time,” said Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10). “As businesses enjoy the benefits of tax incentive development zones, it is in the best interest of taxpayers and workers to make sound investments in how the work is done. While these programs have been instrumental in driving economic development, they also provide a unique opportunity to raise the bar in terms of labor standards and workforce quality. Building trades and apprenticeships invest in workers, ensuring fair, family-sustaining wages and high-quality final products.”
Build Better PA introduces two essential benchmarks for businesses making capital investments exceeding $25,000 in construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration, or repair of facilities within designated tax zones:
- Prevailing Wage Requirement: This provision ensures that businesses within the tax program pay their workers fair wages in line with regional standards. It aims to prevent the exploitation of labor and maintain equitable compensation for workers contributing to these projects.
- Skilled Craft Labor Mandate: To further enhance the quality of workmanship, the bill mandates that at least 70% of the workforce on prevailing wage-eligible projects are “skilled craft laborers.” This criterion ensures that projects funded through tax incentives maintain high standards of craftsmanship and expertise, promoting both worker skill development and the overall quality of construction.
“For decades our Commonwealth has supported business development and created special tax incentives to drive growth,” said Senator Tina Tartaglione (D-2). “These bills will make sure while we keep driving Pennsylvania forward, we don’t leave the working class behind. Unions, skilled trades and apprentice programs are the key to continuing to grow the middle class, which is imperative for our continued success.”
“I have witnessed the challenges that workers in the construction industry face, both as a plumber and as the Business Manager for the largest Plumbers Union in Pennsylvania. This legislation will benefit our labor force by giving them a stronger voice, ensuring fair wages for their hard work, and emphasizing apprenticeships that will properly train our next generation of skilled laborers,” said Senator John Kane (D-9). “As Minority Chair of the Labor and Industry Committee, I am committed to doing everything I can to create a more equitable future and improve Pennsylvania’s position in the construction industry, and this legislation does exactly that.”
The “zone” programs the legislation would apply to are: City Revitalization and Improvement Zones, Neighborhood Improvement Zones, Keystone Opportunity Zones, Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones, Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zones, Keystone Special Development Zone Program, Keystone Innovation Zones and Airport Land Development Zones.
“These tax incentive programs have fueled economic development across the Commonwealth, but we owe it to ourselves to make sure they also uplift our workers,” said Senator Jimmy Dillon (D-5). “I’m honored to partner with Senators Santarsiero, Tartaglione, and Kane to make sure that businesses investing in our communities benefit both themselves and the hardworking men and women who make it all possible.”
“Thank you, Senators Santarsiero, Tartaglione, Kane and Dillon for recognizing the value of union labor to ensure quality construction projects, and fair wages with good benefits for workers,” said Fran McLaughlin, Business Manager for District Council 21. “Apprenticeship programs offer a path for individuals looking not just for a job, but a career that offers family-sustaining wages. Quality work and fair wages will enable us to build a better Pennsylvania and protect investments for taxpayers.”
Senator Nikil Saval (D-1), a co-sponsor of the legislation, voiced his support saying, “Any form of state investment, whether direct or through tax incentives, that drives our Commonwealth’s economic growth should primarily center the creation of jobs with family sustaining wages. This legislation will ensure that Pennsylvania carefully balances our responsibility to attract capital investments and do so in a manner that lifts working class families.”
Any business found in violation of the law would have to refund the full amount of the tax exemption, deduction, abatement or credit awarded for the year that they violated the provisions, as determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.