Throughout this difficult economic cycle, my top goal is to do whatever I can to protect local jobs and get our unemployed and underemployed workers back to work. Other states are hurting their abilities to attract business. For example, Connecticut passed the largest tax increase in their state's history this year while increasing spending. Eleven other states increased taxes this year. Our local taxpayers simply cannot afford a tax increase.
After holding several town hall meetings with constituents and visiting small businesses to listen to job creators, I have taken your concerns with me to Harrisburg. Pennsylvanians want a pro-growth job climate and the legislature has passed various proposals to get our state on the right track to tackle our unemployment rate and create a pro-jobs environment without raising taxes. We should not increase the tax burden on families and small businesses at a time when they can least afford to pay and scare even more jobs away from Pennsylvania.
The General Assembly took a number of steps to make the state more attractive to businesses that are interested in expanding or relocating in Pennsylvania. For starters, the Legislature enacted several changes to unemployment compensation, including the creation of a shared-work program, a requirement for some claimants to exhaust severance pay prior to collecting unemployment compensation and a requirement that claimants actively seek new employment to collect benefits.
There is evidence that some of our efforts to promote job growth in the state are beginning to take hold. Preliminary reports indicate the state's unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in May, well below the national average of 9.2 percent. A recent job report ranked Pennsylvania as the eighth-best state for job-seekers, and the state added more than 80,000 jobs from April 2010 to April 2011.
In our area, a new mining project in Schuylkill and Carbon County is expected to create new jobs for local residents. In the Lehigh Valley, Amazon.com, a massive e-commerce company, recently announced they are expanding to create hundreds of full-time jobs due to the state's commitment to jobs and investment.
Marcellus Shale has accounted for 72,000 new jobs over the past two years in Pennsylvania. The Senate is expected to consider some type of fee to ensure we are protecting our environment in the next few months, but we must do so in a way that will not discourage job growth here in Pennsylvania. With the new shale industry, it is my goal to see Pennsylvania become a leader among states in energy production. More importantly, the majority of Americans want to see our nation be energy independent, as it once was, so that we cannot be held hostage by terrorists in the future who hope to strangle our economy with ever-increasing energy prices in the Middle East.
While we must continue to work to ensure displaced workers find gainful employment, it is a positive sign to see the state stem the recent tide of job losses during the recession and begin to grow and hire again.
Senator David G. Argall,