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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Pa Senators Put Forth Bold Legislation to Keep Residents in their Homes

HARRISBURG, PA − March 23, 2021 − New legislation introduced by Senators Katie Muth (D–Montgomery/Chester/Berks), Steve Santarsiero (D–Bucks), and Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) will ensure Pennsylvanians are able to stay safely housed for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and economically secure throughout the recovery period that follows. The Housing Security Act (Senate Bill 466) creates a framework for mortgage deferment and rent forgiveness, benefitting property owners and renters alike. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed so many significant gaps in our social safety net, and one of the most significant has been housing insecurity,” said Senator Muth. “Even before the pandemic, so many in our Commonwealth were forced to make impossible decisions between food, medicine, and paying the rent or the mortgage. This is unacceptable, and we must take action now to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has safe, affordable, and secure housing no matter where they live.” 

“Housing is a basic human right that too many Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing due to economic hardship at the hands of the pandemic,” said Senator Santarsiero. “We must take steps to protect the families and individuals at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure or eviction. No one deserves to face homeless due to unforeseen financial adversity, especially during a global health crisis, and the Housing Security Act will alleviate that threat for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.”

The Housing Security Act would function on two fronts: first, creating a means to protect homeowners and property owners, and then building a path for the extension of these important protections to renters. 

This bill would mandate that mortgage servicers develop deferment programs to suspend property owners’ obligations to pay their mortgages for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration and for the six months that immediately follow it. Rather than forcing a participant to make a huge lump sum payment at the end of the deferment period, the term of the borrower’s mortgage would be extended for the same number of months that they participated in the deferment program. All late fees, processing fees, and services fees would be waived. 

Landlords participating in the deferment program would be required to reduce their tenants’ rent during the time that they participate in the program, in an amount proportional to the amount of mortgage payment deferred. 

“The magnitude of the housing emergency in our Commonwealth cannot be overstated. As elected officials, we know that evictions and foreclosures damage the health and vitality of families for generations,” said Senator Saval. “As eviction and foreclosure moratoria expire, a tsunami of houselessness, utility shutoffs, and debt is predicted to crash upon the backs of those who are most vulnerable. This future harm is often spoken of as a forgone conclusion, but legislators can take real action, right now, to prevent this from becoming our reality.”

The full text of the Housing Security Act is available on request.