State Senate Democratic Caucus Members Announce Build Better PA

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Senate Democrats Call on Republicans to Immediately Prioritize Gun Violence Prevention Legislation and Appropriations

HARRISBURG – May 25, 2022 – Today, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats wrote the following letter to Republican leaders in response to rampant gun violence and mass shootings that have become too common in the United States. Just this year, 215 mass shootings have taken place in the country, with the devastating shooting that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022, being the 215th

In the letter, the caucus calls on the Republican majority to act on “reasonable and responsible legislation and appropriations” that does not infringe on Second Amendment rights but will help keep guns away from bad actors and support gun violence prevention. Senate Democrats list seven bills that have been introduced to mitigate gun violence but have sat in committee with no discussion or votes. They also highlight how American Rescue Plan dollars and Pennsylvania’s current budget surplus can be used to help communities prevent horrific violence.

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Statement: 16 Democratic State Senators Denounce Frivolous Election Lawsuits and Continued Attempts to Undermine our Democracy

HARRISBURG – December 10, 2020 – Today the following members of the Pennsylvania State Senate signed a joint statement – set forth below – denouncing the brazen attempt of the attorneys general of Texas and seventeen other states to disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvanians and voters in three other states by asking the United States Supreme Court to prevent electors in Pennsylvania and those other states that voted for Joe Biden from certifying him the winner when they meet in Harrisburg and the other state capitals on Monday, December 14. 

The statement reads as follows:

“The lawsuit by the attorneys general of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia is based on the outright lie that voter fraud prevented Donald Trump from getting re-elected.  Since Election Day, the Trump legal team has filed scores of such suits trying to overturn the will of the people. Time and again, the judges in those matters – in many cases conservative, Republican judges, some of whom Donald Trump appointed himself – have found that there was no evidence to support those claims and dismissed the suits accordingly.

The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote and the right of voters to be sure that their votes will be counted.  This lawsuit and others like it are a direct attack on that fundamental principle.  It seeks to perpetuate the lie that the presidential election was somehow stolen.  While partisan politics – and a desire to appease the president’s restive base – may be the motivation for this latest court challenge, allowing it to go forward in silence is dangerous and, we believe, would constitute a dereliction of our duty as elected representatives of the people to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The facts are these:  Joe Biden received over 81 million votes, more than any candidate for president in the history of the United States and about 7 million more than Donald Trump.  He received 80,555 more votes than the president in Pennsylvania.  Mr. Biden received the most votes in 25 states and the District of Columbia, and, therefore, on December 14 when the Electoral College convenes, will be awarded 306 electoral votes, 36 more than the 270 needed to be elected president.  Every vote cast for Joe Biden was cast freely and fairly, whether in person or by mail.  In each state the vote-counting process was transparent and undertaken pursuant to law.  Local and state officials, both Republican and Democratic alike, have attested to those facts, and, as noted, the courts have agreed.  Joe Biden won the election.

Donald Trump has lost his bid for re-election; he seems incapable of accepting that fact.  For the first time in American History, a sitting president who lost re-election has refused to acknowledge his loss, acting instead like a would-be autocrat who cannot accept any outcome that does not have him staying in power.  While that may be a commentary on the character of the man, it cannot be a cause for setting aside the will of the people.

All of us have a responsibility – indeed we would go so far as to say a sacred duty – to ourselves, our fellow Americans and generations to come to prevent the lie that this election was stolen from living on and undermining future elections.  For these reasons we have signed this statement and call upon others to likewise speak out and denounce this lawsuit against our state for what it is: an attack on our democracy.”


Senator Steve Santarsiero, 10th District  

Senator Vincent Hughes, 7th District   

Senator Maria Collett, 12th District 

 Senator Judy Schwank, 11th District 

Senator Tim Kearney, 26th District 

Senator Christine Tartaglione, 2nd District  

Sen.-Elect Amanda M. Cappelletti, 17th District     

Sen.-Elect Carolyn Comitta, 19th District  

Senator Jay Costa, 43rd District    

Senator Anthony H. Williams, 8thDistrict

Senator Katie Muth, 44th District 

Senator Art Haywood, 4th District

Senator Sharif Street, 3rdDistrict          

Senator Lindsey Williams, 38th District

Sen.-Elect Nikil Saval, 1st District

Sen.-Elect John Kane, 9th District