A size-able Congressional delegation from a political swing state and access to key media markets helps maintain the influential status of Pennsylvania. So it makes sense that both President Obama and Vice President Biden visited Lackawanna College in Scranton, in the Veep’s hometown to speak to the importance of higher education. In his February 12th State of the Union address the President said “skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.” The nation eagerly waits to hear what proposals the administration has to make higher education more accessible.
What is also essential to the discussion is supporting an economic environment where students can find jobs after graduating and where the United States can continue its role as a global leader in employment.
Life Science firms in Pennsylvania alone are responsible for a stunning $40 billion in local economic output each year and directly employ nearly 80,000 people in the commonwealth. These are well paid, satisfying jobs – precisely the kind of positions which serve as the cornerstone of the new Pennsylvania economy, one driven by innovation.
However, there appears to be an unfortunate disconnect between stump speeches, policy and reality. While some politicians boast of the life enhancing and life-saving therapies discovered by the thousands of dedicated researchers across the country, these same individuals need to realize the legislation they support to find a source for immediate capital sacrifices job creation and R&D in a key industry, eroding the promise of an expanded tax base and stifling innovation.
An example of these damaging policies is the medical device tax included in the President’s healthcare reform plan. More than $1 billion has already been paid to the federal government this year to cover the tax, leading to layoffs, frozen salaries and slashed research budgets. Indeed, the tax even applies to companies that are not profitable and which must be paid when an invoice is issued, before the business even collects payment for the device.
Where Pennsylvania has built this country, now our numerous life sciences companies strive to keep it healthy and create jobs. So as the administration brings the value of education to the forefront, we encourage the President and Vice President to give our talented students a future filled with the possibility of a career in innovation. Listen to leaders like Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey (D) and 14 out of 18 members of our congressional delegation who support repeal of this job- and innovation-killing tax.
Christopher P. Molineaux is President and CEO of Pennsylvania Bio, a statewide trade association for the life sciences in Pennsylvania, www.pabio.org