When it comes to zip codes, Americans are dating around. The rise in remote work has changed how people choose their hometowns, allowing them to prioritize other things, such as taxes, weather, schools, and personal freedom over proximity to the office.
And workers aren’t the only ones who are playing the field. With fewer local staff, several major companies have moved their headquarters to states, such as Florida and Texas, with smaller regulatory burdens and more affordable living.
Pennsylvania residents are leaving in droves. According to U.S. Census data, Pennsylvania lost about 40,000 residents between July 2021 and July 2022.
The Keystone State is overregulating its residents and chasing talent away. And as much as I want to support our commonwealth, I can’t say I blame them for leaving. There are many things to love about Pennsylvania, but our regulatory landscape is not one of them.
Imagine Pennsylvania is on a dating app, trying to find a match but continually getting rejected. What follows are several red flags and deal-breakers inspiring Pennsylvanians to swipe left and find a better match elsewhere.
Pennsylvania has 166,219 regulations—about 30,000 more than the national average—that make it more expensive for businesses to keep their doors open.
Do we need 4,297 rules for paper manufacturers? Even Scranton’s finest fictional manager, Michael Scott, might consider moving the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company out of state.
Talks about themselves too much
The Pennsylvania Code, which lists all the commonwealth’s rules and regulations, is awfully full of itself. It would take you 740 hours—or 18.5 weeks—to read the whole code.
And this code will never ask you questions about what you need to run a successful business. It doesn’t care.
A bad reputation
We’ve all heard stories about people looking up dates on social media, only to find photos from their recent wedding. It’s important to do some due diligence. One quick search will reveal that Pennsylvania is the 12th most regulated state and has the 20th worst occupational licensing burden and the fifth highest corporate income tax rate (8.99 percent) in the country.
It would be hard to find any business attracted to these numbers.
Pennsylvania has a notoriously slow permitting process. Workers wait months to secure the permission needed to do their jobs. Permitting was even worse last winter when thousands tried registering new companies, only to encounter a backlog of 10,000 applications.
There was nothing they could do but wait. This tedious process needlessly complicated everything, including opening new bank accounts, renting office space, and signing contracts with new clients.
At the beginning of this year, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order to catalog all the processes required to apply for Pennsylvania licenses, permits, and certificates. This catalog found more than 2,400 regulatory hoops that Pennsylvania businesses jump through.
Shapiro’s order also mandated fee refunds for delayed applications. However, his order didn’t specify deadlines, so businesses have continued to wait.
One person stuck in that mess of backlogged applications was a business owner named Sukari Fuller-Bey, who waited a month and then emailed the Department of State to complain. There was no response on Facebook, Twitter, or the phone when she reached out. She told Spotlight PA, “It was like putting it into a black hole and not knowing when you were gonna get it back.”
Living in a state with crushing regulations makes it harder to find work, more expensive to own a business, and drives up consumer prices.
Eventually, everyone has a limit.
When Pennsylvania lost 40,000 residents in a single year, it wasn’t an outlier. Pennsylvania has lost residents to other states in all but one year since 2010.
After this amount of rejection, Pennsylvania might be wondering: Is it me? If your relationships keep failing or you keep getting dumped, yes, it’s you.
Abbey Haslam is the Director of Government Affairs with the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.